- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

ANKARA, Turkey The leader of a major political party has said he will try to overturn reforms granting minority rights to Kurds and abolishing the death penalty measures passed by parliament to boost Turkey's chances of joining the European Union.
Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, whose nationalists make up the largest bloc in parliament but lack a majority, said he would ask Turkey's top court to annul the legislation. In remarks broadcast yesterday by NTV television, Mr. Bahceli said parliament's passage of the reforms Saturday was rash and harmful.
But Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and other politicians praised the reform package yesterday, saying the legislation assured Turkey a place in Europe.
The reforms eliminate the death penalty and grant Kurds the right to broadcast in and teach the Kurdish language requirements for Turkey's EU bid.
Nationalists, who are part of Mr. Ecevit's governing coalition but voted against the measures, say they reward Kurdish rebels who waged a 15-year battle for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.
"I have asked for preparations to be made to appeal to the constitutional court over the laws," Mr. Bahceli said during a rally Saturday, which was broadcast by NTV yesterday. It was not clear what chance of success the appeal would have.
But Mr. Ecevit said he did not have "any doubts" about the legislation and that passing the reforms had earned Turkey international esteem.
"Now, nobody can say Turkey doesn't deserve full membership," he told reporters. "From now on, Turkey is more free, more democratic, more European."
Turkey, a candidate to join the European Union since 1999, has been pressured to improve its human rights record, abolish the death penalty and grant greater rights to its Kurds, who are not recognized as a minority.
But some EU diplomats have cautioned that Turkey is decades away from fulfilling all the requirements. One of the most difficult tasks, implementing the reforms, still lies ahead. For example:
It was not clear if Kurds could open language schools immediately.
The country must address accusations of widespread torture in prisons and police stations.
Turkey's year-end inflation target of 35 percent is well above the 2 percent target required for countries using the euro, the EU currency.
Debate over the reforms has divided Mr. Ecevit's coalition. Mr. Ecevit fell ill in May, and concerns about his health fueled a government crisis that led parliament to call elections for November, 18 months ahead of schedule.
Yesterday, the EU debate spilled onto the campaign trail. Ismail Cem, who recently resigned as foreign minister because of the paralysis in passing the reforms, said Turkish voters should support him during the Nov. 3 balloting to further the country's EU drive.
An EU summit in December is expected to decide on expanding the 15-nation bloc and could set a date for Turkey's entry talks.
The legislation replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, although capital punishment will remain on the books during war.


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