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Iran rejects Turkey's accusations of supporting Islamism

TEHRAN, May 11 (AFP) - Iran on Tuesday rejected accusations it was supporting Islamism in Turkey, and called on Ankara to "avoid making statements that run counter to the growing relations between the two countries."

"What is going on in Turkey has nothing to do with Iran and we hope that the Turkish government will realistically evaluate its internal problems and avoid blaming others," the official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi as saying.

"Iran-Turkey ties are based on principles of good neighbourliness, mutual respect and non-interference in the affairs of each other," he said. "We do not interfere in the internal affairs of any country."

Kharazi also criticised the attitude of the secular Turkish government towards Islam. "Achieving democracy needs solid steps, and respect for people's values and beliefs is an integral part of this process," he said.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit accused Iran Sunday of trying to whip up Islamic extremism in secular Turkey as a debate raged over Islamic-style headscarves. "Even though we do not interfere in Iran's domestic affairs, Iran unfortunately continues efforts to export its own ideology," he said.

Turkey also on Monday deplored a demonstration in Tehran at the weekend supporting the Islamist deputy Merve Kavakci who caused a scandal in Turkey's parliament by insisting on wearing an Islamic headscarf.

NTV news channel on Monday reported that Osman Ocalan, the brother of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, has taken refuge in Iran along with some 2,000 rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkey and Iran recently normalised relations after a diplomatic rift over comments by Iranian diplomats in support of Islamists in Turkey.

The two countries swapped ambassadors in May 1998 after having recalled them some months earlier.


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