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Turkish Economy Minister Resigns Amid Mounting Criticism - 2002-08-10

The Turkish economy minister, Kemal Dervis, has resigned under pressure from Turkey's beleaguered prime minister, Bulent Ecevit.

Mr. Dervis is seen as the architect of a crucial economic recovery program, supported by some $31-billion in international loans. The highly-respected former World Bank official belongs to no political party, but is expected to run as a new coalition candidate in nationwide elections to be held on November 3.

Mr. Dervis was facing mounting criticism for remaining in the Ecevit government, while at the same time forging close links with a rival party set up last month by former Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. Mr. Cem was one of seven Cabinet ministers who quit Mr. Ecevit's government in a prolonged political crisis that has gripped the nation in recent months.

Mr. Dervis tried to resign last month, but was persuaded to stay on by the country's president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

Following his resignation Saturday, Mr. Dervis told a televised news conference that he hoped to bring together the divided center-left parties of Turkey, in an attempt to defeat a rising pro-Islamic party.

Mr. Dervis is considered by both domestic and international financial circles as crucial to the success of the economic recovery program, drawn up for Turkey by the International Monetary Fund. He was brought in from the World Bank in Washington last February to oversee that program, after the country plunged into its worst economic crisis since World War II.

Mr. Dervis says he wants to forge a broad-based pro-Western coalition of left-wing and centrist parties to challenge the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party, formed by a former Istanbul mayor. Opinion polls indicate the religious party could resoundingly win the election.

The prospect is deeply worrying for Turkey's strongly secular and highly influential armed forces, who fear the Justice and Development Party would steer Turkey away from its pro-western course.