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Turkish security council convenes

29 December 2009 [13:22] - TODAY.AZ
Turkey's civilian and military leaders met as police searched a key unit of the army's special forces for a third day in an assassination plot probe.
Turkey's civilian and military leaders met on Monday as police searched a key unit of the army's special forces for a third day in an investigation into a suspected plot to assassinate the deputy prime minister.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denied on Sunday that there were strains between his government and the military, a day after police detained eight soldiers during an initial search of the Special Forces' Tactical Mobilisation headquarters in the capital Ankara.

A search of a military facility by civilians, in a country where the secularist armed forces have toppled four governments since 1960, would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, and Turkish media said it was the first time police had dared take such action.

No charges have been laid in the case, which erupted on Dec. 19, when police first detained two officers after a guard at Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc's residence reported seeing a car passing the house several times.

The two men, a major and a colonel, were subsequently released, but some reports say they were among the eight soldiers detained on Saturday.

Arinc reiterated on Monday that he did not believe he was the target of an assassination plot.

"Naturally this incident should not be thought of as an assassination attempt. Yes, newspapers have covered it like this, but there was no direct act with a weapon," Arinc said in comments carried by CNN Turk's Web site.

"However, there is evidence that individuals were detected with possible bad intentions."

State Prosecutor Mustafa Bilgili accompanied police on Monday during the search of special forces' offices in the capital's Kirazlidere district, according to CNN Turk.

Some reports have linked the detained officers to a shadowy secularist and ultra-nationalist group called Ergenekon, whose alleged members are on trial for attempting to topple the government.

Some 200 people, including military officers, lawyers and academics, have been arrested during the Ergenekon probe.

The National Security Council meets once every two months, but Monday's meeting was cast against mounting uncertainty over the state of relations between the AK Party and the military, long regarded as the guardian of Turkey's secular constitution.

"We will continue to fight with determination against terrorism and the atmosphere that cultivates it, which target our nation's integrity and our citizens' unity and peace," a statement from the council said, without elaborating.

Arinc is a member of the National Security Council, chaired by President Abdullah Gul.

The military said in a statement on Thursday that the two officers, when they were first picked up, had been part of an operation to monitor a fellow officer who lived near Arinc and had been suspected of leaking information.

/World Bulletin/

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