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Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the prime minister of Turkey. He spoke with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels and others at a small gathering of editors at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday afternoon.

Q: Are the elections taking place in Iraq democratic and legitimate, in your view?

A: It is not possible to characterize this election as fully democratic. It is a transition-to-democracy election.

For example, the efforts at the outset to prepare proper voter lists were not successful, so instead there is the idea of showing identification and then being able to vote. This means there will be irregularities. All of the population will not be represented in the vote.

Then there is the concept of “carrying votes” from other parts of Iraq for a local candidate, even though the election will be held across the entire country. This will distort representation.

The sense we get, therefore, is that this election will be based on ethnicity. And the fact that one group (the Sunni Arabs — ed.) has decided not to attend the election will not help in creating a healthy result. A fair election would make sure that all groups participate in the election without any discrimination. This has not been achieved. And that signals negative developments for the future of Iraq.

Q: Will the elections help diminish the violence, or will the violence increase as a result of the unfairness you point out?

A: I do not get the sense that violence will diminish as a result of the election.

Q: Are you concerned that a Shiite-dominated Iraq might lead to a breakup of the country and demands by the Kurds and Sunni Arabs for partition and self-rule?

A: We are opposed to any ethnic group exercising sovereignty over another in Iraq. The national resources of Iraq, in particular oil, belong to all the citizens of Iraq, not to any region or group. Turkey has long maintained that the territorial integrity of Iraq should be preserved, and we stick to that.

Q: There is some worry that the United States might hit Iran with a military strike to take out what it says is a developing nuclear weapons threat. Would you support that?

A: Iran has said it is pursuing only the peaceful use of nuclear energy. They have told us that this peaceful pursuit will be in compliance with the restrictions of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Unless we see anything that contradicts this, it would be wrong for us make any statements against Iran.

Every country in the world has drawn lessons from what we went through with Iraq. Any further steps taken in the region will have to be worked out from countries (ITALICS) in (END ITALICS) the region.

As far as Turkey is concerned, we are in favor of “globalizing peace,” not “globalizing war.” We will thus do whatever it takes to ensure a peaceful resolution of this issue.

Q: British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a point in Davos of praising U.S. President George Bush’s inaugural call to “end tyranny” and bring democracy to the world as a recognition that the United States understands now it must get at the root of terrorism, not just fight it militarily. Do you agree with Blair’s interpretation that this speech was positive, not a threat to world peace?

A: Countries that have integrated with the democratic world will never accept tyranny or dictatorship. As children of democracy, we won’t accept dictatorship anymore. Iraq is a country that should have democracy because it suffered badly under Saddam’s dictatorship. However, Iraq today has become an arena of terrorism. That worries us a great deal. What we want is to save Iraq from the remaining effects of that dictatorship on the nation.

We have to ask ourselves, is terrorism globalizing or is peace globalizing out of this process? Has the international community been able to establish a mutual platform for the fight against terrorism, thus globalizing peace? I’m afraid it is not possible to say yes to this question.

(c) 2005, Global Viewpoint
Distributed by Tribune Media Services INC. (1/27/05)