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Thursday, December 18, 2014  

Move to abandon park plan fails to end Turkey stir
ISTANBUL Turkey’s combative prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Friday abandoned his plan to build a new shopping mall on one of the few green patches in central Istanbul, but he insisted on razing the park nevertheless, a mixed signal that could prolong weeklong protests here and in other cities.

Pulling back from a plan that he had announced two years ago to build a replica of an Ottoman-era army barracks on the site of Gezi Park, Erdogan said the mall “is not possible in the artillery barracks anyway, given the measurements.” He added: “We may build a city museum instead, and a green area that would be far better than the current park.”

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Saturday said there was no question of calling early elections after a week of the fiercest anti-government protests in decades.  

 “Local elections will be held in March 2014, presidential elections in August 2014, and general elections in June 2015, and a change in the schedule is out of the question,” Deputy Chairman Huseyin Celik told reporters after a meeting of the AK Party’s executive committee.  

Thousands of angry Turks took to the streets on Saturday to join mass anti-government protests, defying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call to end the worst civil unrest of his decade-long rule.

From the early morning, protesters began arriving in Istanbul’s Taksim Square with food and blankets to settle in for a weekend of demonstrations, adding to the growing tent city in nearby Gezi Park.

Fresh demonstrations were also planned in the capital Ankara as the crisis entered its ninth day.

Erdogan, meanwhile, was meeting in Istanbul with top officials of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to discuss the crisis, and a deputy prime minister was due to make a speech later on Saturday.

A small Istanbul park whose conservation fight sparked mass protests will not be turned into a shopping mall, the city’s mayor assured protesters on Friday, but insisted the site’s controversial redevelopment would go ahead.

“We are definitely not thinking of building a shopping mall there, no hotel or residence either. It can be... a city museum or an exhibition centre,” Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas told reporters.

Jailed Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan on Friday voiced his support for the anti-government protests in Turkey, despite his involvement in peace talks with the Turkish authorities.

Ocalan warned the protesters, who are calling for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to go, not to let their movement be overtaken by Turkish nationalists, CNN-Turk reported on its website.

His words were read out by an official from Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish political party, the BNP following a visit to the Imrali island prison where the Kurdish rebel chief is serving a life sentence.

The International Journalists’ Federation on Friday condemned the “disproportionate force” used by Turkish authorities against reporters covering the deadly nationwide protests.

Police in Istanbul have targeted journalists with teargas and several had been injured covering the unrest that has spread from the city across the country, the IFJ said in a statement.

Agencies
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