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Turkey's new president meets military top brass who opposed his bid

Turkey's new president meets military top brass who opposed his bid

Turkey's new president sat next to the country's senior military leader Thursday at a celebration of the armed forces that aggressively opposed his candidacy for the country's top job.
President Abdullah Gul, who took office on Tuesday after winning a parliamentary vote, is a figure of suspicion among many in the military who view his past in political Islam as a threat to Turkey's secular principles.
But as commander-in-chief, Gul presided over a ceremony marking the 85th anniversary of a victory over Greek forces considered crucial in the Turkish war of independence that led to the foundation of the modern republic.
At his side sat Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the military chief who warned on the eve of Gul's election this week that "centers of evil" were seeking to undermine the secular ideals outlined nearly a century ago by the national founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
"The Turkish military, which saved its country from all disasters and troubles under the harshest conditions, will _ just as it has so far _ commit every sacrifice to protect its country and its nation from every danger, both inside and abroad," Buyukanit said before the ceremony at a stadium in the capital, Ankara.
From his position on a podium surrounded by other military leaders and politicians, Gul greeted troops as fighter jets soared overhead.
Later, the two men, flanked by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other ministers, smiled and chatted at a reception hosted by Buyukanit.
The military has been engaged in a decades-old fight against Kurdish guerrillas that has killed tens of thousands of people. On Wednesday, the state-run news agency Anatolia said Turkish troops killed eight Kurdish rebels in a clash in the country's southeast.
Earlier this year, when Gul's bid for presidency was announced, secular opposition backed by the military reacted fiercely, pointing out Gul's Islamic past while huge crowds took to the streets in anti-Gul protests.
The opposition's boycott of a parliamentary vote to elect Gul forced Erdogan to call early general elections.
The ruling party _ of which Gul was a member _ renewed its mandate with a resounding victory in July elections, which most analysts interpreted as people's support for the former foreign minister's candidacy.
Gul reasserted his bid shortly after the elections _ but this time with a much stronger hand in his contest against the secularist opposition backed by the military and the top court.
After his election, senior military officials did not attend Gul's swearing-in ceremony where he officially became head of state and the nation's top commander. The move was interpreted as a military protest against Gul's presidency.
Local media, without citing sources, said the generals had invited only Gul _ and not his wife who wears an Islamic-style head scarf _ to their events as a military academy graduation and Thursday's celebrations.
Gul's wife's head scarf has created controversy throughout Gul's candidacy.


Updated : 2021-02-27 21:05 GMT+08:00