New Turkish President Abdullah Gul has been described as a highly competent but controversial political figure.

Mr. Gul, 56, Tuesday became the 11th president of Turkey. He was previously foreign minister.

A devout Muslim, he began his political career in a now-banned Islamist party.

Critics have expressed concern that Turkey's strong secular traditions could erode under his leadership. Mr. Gul has assured secularists he is no threat to those traditions.

Supporters, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, see Mr. Gul as a respected diplomat who helped secure talks about Turkey joining the European Union.

Nursune Memecan, a Parliament member from Mr. Gul's ruling Justice and Development Party, said the new president is open-minded and likes to build consensus.

But critics have also described him as a divisive figure who could undermine Turkey's political stability, despite his efforts to reconcile with secularists.