Islamists asks Motherland party to reconsider after talks break down


TURKEY'S Islamist party asked the conservative Motherland Party (ANAP) to rethink its terms for a coalition and restart talks that could give the Welfare Party (RP) its first taste of power in the secular republic.

"If (ANAP leader Mesut) Yilmaz changes his unfair offer into a fair one, we are ready to talk with him again," said Mr Sevket Kazan, RP deputy chairman.

Motherland and caretaker Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's True Path Party (DYP) started coalition talks after a power sharing deal between ANAP the Islamists collapsed on Saturday.

Mr Yilmaz, who currently holds the mandate to form a government, said talks with the Islamists broke down mainly over control of the economy and religion - both emotive issues in the 73 year secular republic.

The semi official Anatolian news agency quoted Mr Kazan as saying Mr Yilmaz's insistence on complete, control of the economy was unfair.

He said Welfare was willing to let Motherland take the Directorate of Religious Affairs, which Mr Yilmaz said was a point of contention between the two parties.

Mr Kazan said he believed most deputies from Motherland which includes in its ranks several Islamists and a small ultra right, Islamist party - wanted an alliance with Welfare and would persuade Mr Yilmaz to reconsider.

The mainstream secularist media, clearly relieved at the failure of the Islamists' first serious bid for power in modern Turkish history, lost no time yesterday in resurrecting ANAYOL, an acronym of the right wing parties' Turkish names.

"Return to ANAYOL" and "ANAYOL or polls", said headlines in leading daily newspapers, voicing a consistent demand of the political and business elite for a united right to lead Turkey after inconclusive elections in December. But prospects for such a coalition remain doubtful.

Previous talks on ANAYOL collapsed when Ms Ciller refused to cede to Mr Yilmaz's demand that she must give up the top job. Turkey has been under caretaker rule by Ms Ciller since her unstable right left coalition broke down in September.

The right, with a total 40 per cent of the vote in December's polls, is the biggest political block in Turkey but has so far been split by the bitter animosity between Ms Ciller and Mr Yilmaz.

Religion, an extremely sensitive issue in Turkey, has been kept firmly on the political sidelines since 1923 when the country was set up as a strictly secular republic from the ruins of the defunct Ottoman Empire.