The United States demanded that Turkey participate in the air bombing of Libya. The Turkish National Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul gave a negative response to such a demand. The demand from the U.S. came from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. In a meeting in Brussels, Gates criticized Turkey, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Poland for not participating in the air bombing of Libya. Gonul told Gates that Turkey had a principled decision not to participate in the "No-Fly Zone."

Turkey to Send $100 Million to Libya

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Muhammed Salgam, one of the leading names in the opposition in Libya, called for help to pay salaries, as well as provide food in Benghazi. Turkey became one of the first countries to respond to the call. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey would send $100 million U.S. dollars to Libya.

Syrian Army Starts Operation Near Turkish Border

The Syrian army started an operation in the Cisr El Şukur vicinity, near the Turkish border, to prevent rebellion activities. The region is closed to foreign press and observers, experts say, and the Syrian army will not tolerate any resistance; more than a thousand refugees escaped to Turkey.

Thousands Seek Refuge in Turkey

People afraid of retaliation for the killings of 120 police officers in Syria are escaping to Turkey. Nearly 2,500 Syrians have taken shelter in Turkey in the last 24 hours. A Syrian refugee said: "They cut our electricity and poisoned the waters. They dropped bombs on us from helicopters. We were able to escape only by having our loved ones with us." Syrians, whose demand to take shelter in Turkey was accepted by the Turkish government, settled in a tent city set up by the Red Crescent in Yayladagi, a town in the southern province of Hatay.

Turkish is Only Official Language, Prime Minister Says

Turkey's prime minister said late Wednesday that his Justice and Development Party (AK) did not acknowledge any other language than Turkish as the official language.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his party paved the way for courses in the mother tongue.

"Whoever wants can go there and get education, but we do not recognize any other language than Turkish as official," Erdogan said in a televised interview.

Erdogan said the "Kurdish issue" was included in his party program. He also said nobody could separate the Turks and Kurds.

"Assimilation is out of the question during our ruling," he said. "We respect our Kurdish brothers, but also they are to respect Turks in the same way."

'We Would Have Hung Ocalan,' Turkish PM Says

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan angrily responded to claims that his ruling party is negotiating with the main pro-Kurdish party to release imprisoned terrorist Abdullah Öcalan. If they had been in power when the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, chief was captured in 1999, Öcalan would have been hanged, he said. Or, they would have quit the coalition government.

"These slanders are being made by MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] leader Devlet Bahçeli," Prime Minister Erdoğan said Thursday in an interview with Kral FM, referring to the negotiation claims.

"I replied to his assertions the other day. I say it again, I give this promise once again," Erdoğan said, vowing to keep Öcalan locked up on İmralı Island, where he is serving a life sentence.

Öcalan was arrested in Kenya in 1999 by American intelligence and was handed over to Turkey on the condition that he not be hanged. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002, but the MHP, which was part of the coalition government at that time, voted against the move in Parliament.

Erdoğan claimed the three-party coalition signed a decree in early 2002 to postpone the execution of Öcalan and accused Bahçeli of being part of this effort.

"If you had not postponed it that time, we would no longer have such an issue on the country's agenda," the prime minister said.

Questioned further on the issue, Erdoğan said if he had been in the government at that time, he would have pushed for Öcalan's execution and would have withdrawn from the coalition government if his partners could not be convinced to carry out the order.

Under the current conditions, Erdoğan made it clear the AKP would not allow a change in Öcalan's status.

"As long as Tayyip is alive and his party continues ruling the country, I won't allow this to happen," Erdoğan said.

The PKK, started by Öcalan, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Criticisms against business world

In another interview late Wednesday with CNN, Erdoğan continued his harsh criticism of businessman İnan Kıraç and the country's largest business group.

"I have accepted some of İnan Kıraç's invitations in the past. I will not any longer," Erdoğan told the private broadcaster when asked what he meant by comments last week, in which he said Kıraç "was taking a risk" by predicting the main opposition party would win the June 12 general elections.

"Involvement in such things is a serious risk for him, as a businessman with influence," the prime minister told journalists after the daily, Cumhuriyet, claimed Kıraç had bet the Republican People's Party, or CHP, would emerge victorious in the nationwide polls.

"I would say it again: Nowhere else in the world do businessmen make such clear declarations about countries' political activities," Erdoğan said. "They can't say, 'This will happen or that will happen.' Because they know they have to work with whoever comes to power. They don't take such risks. And this is what I said [about Kıraç]."

Asked about the specific risk facing Kıraç, Erdoğan said that in addition to uncertainty over future contracts with the ruling party, he would not attend any events organized by the businessman.

The prime minister said he would avoid such events until Kıraç admits he did not make such a bet. Erdoğan also criticized the businessman for discussing the matter behind closed doors.

"It would have been more respectful if he had come out and made his statement publicly," he said.

As for the Turkish Industry and Business Association, or TUSİAD, Erdoğan said they were "ambiguous and unpredictable, but we know what their stance is." He criticized the group for failing to support the government's proposed constitutional amendments, which were passed in a referendum in September.

Bahceli Reacts to Turkish PM'S Claims About Öcalan

Hours after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the nationalist opposition party of allowing Abdullah Öcalan to avoid execution in the early 2000s, its leader called on the ruling party to hang the terrorist chief, if it were able.

"If you say you want to hang him, what kept you from doing so for the last nine years of your rule?" Devlet Bahçeli asked at a Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, election rally in Mersin, off the Mediterranean coast. "You preferred to negotiate with him," the MHP chief added, repeating claims that angered Erdoğan.

The quarrel over Öcalan's life-or-death status between the MHP and Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has accelerated in recent days, as general election near on June 12. Currently serving a life sentence in prison, Öcalan is the head of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

"When we first revealed the government was in talks with Öcalan, Erdoğan denied this and described us in unflattering terms," Bahçeli said. "Now he confesses they have been in constant talks with the terrorist head. It is obvious Mr. Prime Minister has failed in the test of honor."

Turkey's Izmir to be NATO's Land Forces Base

NATO defense ministers agreed to a reform that will turn the air force bases in Turkey's western province of Izmir to land forces base.

Releasing a written statement Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, "NATO defense ministers have just approved a set of important reforms. They will make NATO leaner, more flexible, and better able to deal with future challenges."

"We have agreed to streamline the agencies which run individual NATO projects, such as ground surveillance and strategic airlift. As a result, our agencies will become simpler in structure, while staying effective in their work. And we have agreed to re-shape NATO's command structure, making it more efficient, more deployable, and more compact," Rasmussen said. "Some headquarters will close. Others will move or change their role. Together, these reforms will make NATO more affordable – offering even better value for our Allies' money. They will make NATO more effective – focusing on the capabilities and command systems we need," he said.

No detailed information was given regarding the NATO bases, however, diplomatic sources confirmed that Izmir air forces base would be turned into land forces base within the scope of the reforms. Accordingly, two land forces bases in Germany and Spain will be united and transferred to Izmir.

Boeing Representative: 'Not Surprised' if 300 Planes Sold to Turkey in 10 Years

A senior official of Boeing Commercial Planes in Europe, Aldo Basile, said that the developments in northern Africa would not have a negative impact on the ordering of new airplanes in the long run. Basile said that he would not be surprised if they sold 300 airplanes to Turkey in the next 10 years.

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