Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 1 News List

New Turkish president faces first day in office

AP , ANKARA

Turkey's new president, a devout Muslim who has vowed to respect the division of Islam and state, yesterday faced his first task: a review of the new Cabinet proposed by his old ally, the prime minister.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul won election in a parliamentary vote on Tuesday after months of confrontation with the secular establishment, and his opponents will scrutinize his conduct for signs of bias toward the Islamic-oriented government.

The presidency, a traditional bastion of secularism, has the power to veto legislation and official appointments.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he planned to submit his list of proposed Cabinet ministers to Gul, the former foreign minister, later yesterday for approval.

The process was expected to be a formality, though Gul has the right to object to candidates.

Media reports indicate the Cabinet of two dozen ministers is likely to be a mixture of people with Islamic and non-Islamic backgrounds.

According to reports, Gul's successor as foreign minister is expected to be Ali Babacan, the finance minister and a close associate of Gul in the government's campaign to join the EU. Babacan, 40, is the youngest minister in the outgoing government.

Babacan, who earned a business degree at Northwestern University in Chicago, also acted as the steward of economic reforms that were backed by the IMF.

The reforms helped Turkey emerge from an economic crisis and attain an average annual growth of 7 percent.

Other figures touted as possible new ministers include Ertugrul Gunay, who joined the ruling Justice and Development party after leaving the Republican People's Party, the main opposition group that helped derail a presidential bid by Gul in the spring. Another is Zafer Caglayan, who headed the chamber of industry in Ankara, the capital.

The new Cabinet was likely to feature more women, including 46-year-old Edibe Sozen, a US-educated sociologist who was in charge of media relations in Erdogan's party.

The only woman in the last Cabinet, Nimet Cubukcu, was in charge of women and family affairs.

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