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Moammar Kadafi should step down, Turkish leader says

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has encouraged democracy movements in the Arab world but resisted giving his full support to the Libyan uprising, now says it's time for Moammar Kadafi to go.

May 04, 2011|By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times
  • Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media. (Osman Orsal, Reuters )

Reporting from Beirut — Turkey, a key player in the Muslim world, turned decisively against the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi on Tuesday, urging him to immediately step down from power.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has played a significant role in encouraging the democracy movements sweeping through the Arab world, told reporters at a televised news conference in Istanbul that Libya had entered a new era and outgrown Kadafi's 41-year dictatorship.

"We wish that the Libyan leader pulls out from Libya and cedes power immediately, for himself and for the future of his country, without causing more bloodshed, tears and destruction," Erdogan told reporters, according to news agencies. "A person on whom everybody will agree should come in to rule in Libya in order to restore peace and stability in the country."

Erdogan, who has fashioned Turkey as a regional power broker, strongly supported uprisings early this year that toppled autocratic rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, where he bluntly called on Hosni Mubarak to leave office. But he had balked at throwing his wholehearted support behind uprisings against Kadafi and Syria's Bashar Assad, urging reform and reconciliation.

Turkey has frequently questioned the U.N. Security Council-authorized Western-led military effort to protect Libyan civilians and establish a no-fly zone over the North African country.

But as the death tolls in Syria and Libya mount, Erdogan has come under increasing domestic pressure, even from within his own Justice and Development Party, to iron out foreign policy inconsistencies. He has been publicly questioned for vacationing with the Assad family last year.

Erdogan's party faces crucial general elections in six weeks. His moderate, Islamist-rooted political party is favored to win the election with 48.7% of the vote, compared with 46.6% it received four years ago, according to a survey published in the Turkish daily Sabah.

Erdogan's comments Tuesday represent a significant shift for Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman Empire that ruled Libya for centuries, and will probably resonate throughout Kadafi's inner circle. They came a day after Turkey shut down its embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The comments suggested exasperation with a regime that continues to bombard rebel-held urban areas such as Misurata and Zintan, killing hundreds of civilians, even as it insists it is abiding by a cease-fire.

"Kadafi preferred to shed blood instead of heeding our calls," Erdogan said. "We are done talking in Libya."

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