Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Turkish PM put in hospital after fasting

AGENCIES , ANKARA

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hospitalized yesterday after suffering from a drop in blood sugar triggered by exhaustion and fasting, officials and doctors said.

"His blood sugar dropped. Doctors say he is in a quite good condition," spokesman Akif Beki said. "I do not think he will stay in the hospital overnight."

Erdogan, 52, fell ill around 11am, just before he was due to appear to speak to his Justice and Development Party in parliament. He was immediately rushed to a private hospital by his bodyguards.

"There was a drop in [Erdogan's] blood sugar due to exhaustion and fasting," Tevfik Ali Kucukbas, the chief doctor at Guven Hospital, told reporters.

A practising Muslim, Erdogan follows the dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on Sept. 24.

"We will keep him under observation for a while. There is nothing worrying in his vital functions," Kucukbas said.

Meanwhile, the EU and Turkey made little headway on Monday in resolving a stalemate over Ankara's refusal to open its ports to Cypriot planes and ships -- a decision that the EU said could lead to problems in Turkey's membership talks.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn also criticized Turkey again about the pace of its reforms, urging the country to "urgently" pass laws, particularly on changing its penal code, which he said violated European standards on human rights in freedom of expression.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja -- whose country holds the rotating EU presidency and who was chairing talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul -- said talks to keep entry negotiations on track depended on compromise.

"It takes two to tango," Tuomioja said after the meeting, adding that Gul and Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders had welcomed a new initiative by Finland to try to resolve the standoff.

"That is a good prospect, because I think it is in no one's interest -- not in any member state of the EU, or in Turkey's interest -- that we fail," Tuomioja said.

The Finnish compromise offers to reduce restrictions on the Turkish-run northern part of the island if Turkey in turn opened its ports to the Greek Cypriots.

The proposal would open up the northern Cyprus seaport of Famagusta to free trade with the EU. In return the Turkish side would then hand over control of the abandoned town of Varosha.

Both Greece and Cyprus, backed by other EU nations, have threatened to block future talks if Ankara does not live up to an agreement signed last year to extend its customs union with the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004.

Turkey has refused to accept shipments from Greek Cypriots until an international embargo against Turkish Cypriots in the north of the Mediterranean island is lifted.

Failure by Turkey to implement the deal could lead to EU leaders suspending talks with Ankara in December.

"The problem is still there," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. "The continuation of the accession process hinges on the question if Turkey is ready and capable of ratifying the ... [customs] protocol. Turkey is not ready to do this so far."

Gul said his government would work to find a solution.

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