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Turkish PM: Syria's Oppression Will Not Survive

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses Libyans at Tripoli Airport, September 16, 2011.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses Libyans at Tripoli Airport, September 16, 2011.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Friday, saying the era of oppressive dictators is over.

Erdogan is in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Friday as he completes a tour of North African countries.  He told a crowd of cheering Libyans that they have set an example by ending the four-decade-long rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

The Turkish prime minister has repeatedly criticized Assad for his bloody crackdown on protesters across the country that have left more than 2,000 people dead.  On Tuesday in Cairo, Erdogan said he no longer believes in Assad, and neither do the Syrian people.

On Thursday, the Turkish prime minister's North African tour took him to Tunisia, where the "Arab Spring" protest movement began this year. He met with Tunisian prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi.

Erdogan told Tunisians that Islam and democracy are not contradictory.  In Turkey, Erdogan's party has Islamist roots and its election success has served as a model for political groups spreading in the Arab world. Turkey is 99 percent Muslim.

Erdogan's trip also took him to Egypt.  On Wednesday, Erdogan spoke with leaders of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood after receiving a hero's welcome from Egyptians for his pro-Palestinian stand.

Erdogan's four-day diplomatic visit to North Africa is aimed at expanding Turkey's growing influence in a region full of political upheaval.

Some in Israel have expressed concern that Erdogan's "Arab Spring" diplomatic tour will stoke anti-Israel tensions, as it comes while Turkish-Israeli relations have hit new lows.

The two countries have been in a dispute over Turkey's demand for an apology for Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship last year.  Turkey recently expelled the Israeli ambassador and other top diplomats from Ankara, and has suspended military trade and cooperation with Israel.

On Friday, the White House announced that U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Erdogan during a United Nations meeting next week in New York to encourage him to repair relations with Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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