Turkish PM furious over leaked US cable

Last Updated: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 21:58

Ankara: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of
Turkey on Thursday reacted furiously to claims in a leaked US
State Department memo that he has money in Swiss bank accounts
and said US diplomats should be punished for allegations he
branded as lies and gossip.

The angry outburst broke from Turkey`s initial position
of downplaying the significance of the leaks and saying that
the documents would not affect Turkish and US ties.

The classified cable, released this week by WikiLeaks, is
dated Dec 30, 2004 from then-US Ambassador Eric Edelman, who
was assessing Erdogan`s second year in power.

It says: "We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan
has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his
wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and
that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses
of all four Erdogan children in the US purely altruistically
are lame."

Erdogan said on live television he was prepared to resign
if opposition parties can prove that he has any money in a
Swiss account.

"The US is responsible for those diplomats` false
claims and their smears. The US should ensure that the
diplomats are held to account," Erdogan said on live
television.

"To accept as true the lies and slanders that emanate
from the personal hatred of one or two former ambassadors and
to accuse the government is a great wrong."

Turkey`s main opposition party this week called on
Erdogan to explain the Swiss bank accounts claim and said it
had formed a committee to investigate the allegation."

Another US diplomatic cable, dated February 27, 2009,
claimed that Erdogan`s friends were benefiting from Turkey`s
business deals with Iran. One friend from his days at a
religious school was head of a Turkish company that had
entered a joint venture with Iran to develop gas and build
pipelines, the memo said.

Edelman served in Turkey at a time of when ties between
the US and its close NATO ally grew tense following the
Turkish parliament`s refusal to allow US troops to use
Turkey`s territory for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Erdogan suggested Turkey might seek legal action against
the diplomats, saying Turkey was determined to "pursue" the
allegations at home and abroad.

"We have talked about these with the US government. They
have already made an apology, but we do not find this
sufficient. They have to take every step necessary with those
diplomats."

PTI



First Published: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 21:58

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