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Turkey's First Islamist Prime Minister Dies

Necmettin Erbakan, a former prime minister who led Turkey's first Islamist government between 1996 and 1997, speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey (File Photo - April 10, 2009)

Turkey's first Islamist prime minister and the leader of the country's Islamist movement has died.

Necmettin Erbakan was 85 when he succumbed to heart failure on Sunday.

Turkey's current prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, praised Erbakan "as a teacher and a leader." He said Mr. Erbakan will always be remembered "with gratitude."

Erbakan, who was a professor of engineering before entering politics in 1969, served only one year as prime minister. He was forced to step down by the Turkish military in 1997 and in 1998 his Welfare Party was banned from politics for five years for undermining secularism.

The party was later reconstituted into Prime Minister Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).