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Turkey's New President Approves Cabinet List


Turkey's new president Abdullah Gul has approved the new cabinet submitted Wednesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic rooted Justice and Development party. Mr. Gul, a devout Muslim who is a close political ally of the prime minister, has promised to respect Turkey's long established division between state and religion. But as Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul, secularists will be watching the new government closely.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan submitted his list of cabinet ministers to President Gul for ratification one day after the new president was selected by parliament.

Prime Minister Erdogan made few changes from his previous administration.

The most notable being the post of foreign minister which will be given to the U.S.-educated Ali Babacan, a close ally of Mr. Gul who has also been instrumental in negotiations with the European Union.

As he announced his cabinet selections, the prime minister promised a new dynamism.

Mr. Erdogan promised more reforms to give Turkey greater freedom and greater prosperity. He said there will be a new dynamism with this government, which has a powerful mandate from the people.

Parliamentary approval of the cabinet is considered a virtual certainty. Mr. Erdogan's Justice and development party won a landslide in last months general election.

But staunch secularists, especially in the powerful military, remain deeply skeptical of the prime minister and the new president because of their political Islamic past.
Both men were leading members of an Islamic party which was closed by the courts on charges of undermining the secular state.

On the streets of Istanbul people appear divided over the new president.

This man said the Justice and Development party won last month's general election and the people have spoken . He says, he is sure Mr. Gul will be a good president and will be a hard working man.

But others were far more cautious.

This man said Mr. Gul would not be a very good president because of his past. He said he made too many mistakes and he thinks there will be more.

Political columnist Murat Yetkin said if President Gul honors his commitment to uphold secularism, he expects tensions over his election to dissipate.

"If he keeps his promises, especially secular and democratic nature of Turkish republic I believe that there should be no tension and I believe the question marks now pending on the presidency of Abdullah Gul will fade out. Otherwise there might be some political tensions in society and politics," he said.

But in a sign of the tensions that may still lie ahead, senior army generals stayed away from Mr. Gul's swearing in ceremony on Tuesday. Some local media interpreted the snub as a protest against the president. There was no official explanation.

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