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Turkish Military Warns it Will Defend Secular System


Turkey's military has warned that it will defend the country's secular system of government, as Turkish lawmakers prepare to draft a new constitution.

Turkish army chief General Yasar Buyukanit said Monday in Istanbul that "no power can change Turkey's secular structure." He also repeated opposition to the creation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, saying it would pose a political and security risk to Turkey.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Party, has made drafting a new constitution a top priority since winning elections in July.

Turkish secularists, including the army, accuse the Islamist-rooted AK party of seeking to boost the role of religion by easing restrictions on religious symbols such as Islamic headscarves.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, a ruling party member, denies having an Islamist agenda.

He told an opening session of parliament Monday that a new constitution should reaffirm the democratic, secular and social characteristics of the state.

Turkey fears that an independent Iraqi Kurdish state will embolden Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey who have fought a 23-year long rebellion for self-rule. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict.

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