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Turkish PM Threatens to Sue Over Wikileaks Claims

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

Turkey's prime minister is threatening to sue over the recently released diplomatic cables on the website WikiLeaks.

A cable written by former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman that alleged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had eight Swiss bank accounts,  struck a deep nerve.  

Speaking to his supporters, Mr. Erdogan did not hold back his fury.

"Those who have slandered us will be crushed under these claims, will be finished and will disappear," he said.

The prime minister went on to with more threats.

"My friends are working against these diplomats in terms of national and international law," he said.  "We have discussed these issues with the U.S. administration. They have extended their apologies, but it is not enough. They have to take all necessary measures against these diplomats."

The prime minister even offerred to resign from office and from parliament if the claims were proven to be true.

Main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has made a name in politics by exposing government corruption.  Since heading the party he has focused on Mr. Erdogan and now believes the moment of truth has come for the prime minister:

He says, "we are waiting for the prime minister to file a lawsuit for damages against the United states and to take these claims to the international arena."  

Analysts say Kilicdaroglu believes he has cornered the prime minister because Mr. Erdogan, along with his party, have been mired in allegations of corruption.   And, the U.S. cable allegations have put those accusations back in the headlines.

Political Columnist Murat Yetkin says things could worsen for the government.

"If there are more corruption claims to be revealed by  WikiLeaks  of course it may put the government in a difficult position," said Yetkin. " And the government is very sensitive on the issue and trying to divert the attention from the corruption claims to the foreign policy."

But, some government officials have a different take on the leaks.  Government spokesman Huseyin Celick claims they could be  an Israeli conspiracy against Turkey.  That suspicion was echoed by Turkish President Abdullah Gul who said Israel is benefiting from the leaks.

On the streets of Istanbul,  some are not convinced the accusations are true.

"I did not see the bank accounts or any documents about it, I cannot say it is definite, but maybe. Why not?" Said one person.

"He is a rich guy, but I do not think he has an account in Switzerland," said another.

"The US diplomats are doing their job, they heard some gossip and they must report this and they did their job," a third person said. "I believe some of them [are] true, includ[ing the] bank account. But I guess our prime minister could not open in his name, maybe some family members for him."

With a general election less than a year away, analysts say the leaked cables have rattled the prime minister.  But they also warn with thousands more cables on Turkey expected to be leaked in the coming weeks and months, these are anxious times for the government.

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