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Turkish PM Erdogan alleges international plot

AFP | Last Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013 - 23:14

Istanbul: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed a huge graft probe in which the sons of two ministers were charged on Saturday was an international conspiracy.

The case that erupted on Tuesday and targeted 89 people, including some of Erdogan`s closest allies, has triggered a crescendo of reactions from Turkey`s strongman.

Rattled by the worst scandal of his 11-year rule and with crucial polls three months away, Erdogan has already purged the police command for cooperating with the investigation and today took it out on foreign ambassadors.

He described the probe into widespread bribery by members of his moderately Islamist regime as "smear campaign" with international ramifications.

"Some ambassadors are engaged in provocative actions... Do your job," Erdogan said in televised remarks in the Black Sea city of Samsun. "We don`t have to keep you in our country."

Erdogan`s remarks were considered a veiled threat to US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, after he was reported to have commented on the unfolding bribery scandal.

The US envoy however denied the media claims and said on Twitter, "The United States has nothing to do with the ongoing corruption investigation".

Observers have interpreted the raids as a result of tensions between Erdogan`s government and Fethullah Gulen, a hugely influential Muslim cleric who lives in the United States.

Judges in Istanbul today charged the sons of Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan with acting as intermediaries in order to give and take bribes, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

Among the scores detained in pre-dawn raids on December 17 were also the chief executive of state-owned bank Halkbank, Suleyman Aslan, and the Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab.

Zarrab was charged with forming a ring that bribed officials to disguise illegal gold sales to sanctions-hit Iran via Halkbank and Aslan was charged with taking bribes, Hurriyet said.

First Published: Saturday, December 21, 2013 - 23:14

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