In Turkey, break from the past plays out in the streets
ISTANBUL — At a reception Monday evening at the president’s mansion to celebrate Turkey’s founding 89 years ago, something previously unheard of occurred: The country’s top military commander stood alongside the wives of the president and prime minister, even while the women wore Islamic headscarves.
In years past the military elite would never have stood beside women wearing a symbol long at the center of Turkey’s struggle over the role of religion in public life. These men were heirs to the traditions of Turkey’s secularist founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who zealously banished religion from public life. They had for years refused to attend such gatherings — in protest of the headscarf.
But the scene from the reception Monday was broadcast on television, and for many Turks the striking image underscored an emphatic break from a past when civilian leaders were subservient to the military, and Islam was filtered from public life.
“The Turkish army is now withdrawing from politics,” said Taha Akyol, a columnist for Hurriyet, a Turkish daily newspaper.
—Tim Arango, The New York Times
Italy and Spain keeping Central Bank’s offer on the shelf
MADRID — The leaders of Spain and Italy insisted Monday that neither country had near-term plans to invoke the bond-buying program that the European Central Bank had offered, nor to support a recent proposal for a supercommissioner who might intervene in national budgets.
Instead, both the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, and his Italian counterpart, Mario Monti, insisted that they would continue to push for rapid adoption of a European fiscal and banking union.
“With regard to the European agenda, Spain and Italy are more united than ever,” Rajoy said at a joint news conference with Monti.
Rajoy has been under pressure to tap a bond-buying program announced by Mario Draghi, the ECB president, in early September. But he has refused to leap at the opportunity, and Monday he said that Madrid would ask for such funding only when he felt it was “convenient” to do so. Monti also dismissed the idea that Italy would need such help to meet its immediate refinancing obligations.
—Raphael Minder, The New York Times
ALGIERS, Algeria — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Algeria on Monday as the United States sought to coordinate support for an emerging international effort to push Islamic militants out of northern Mali.
“One of the things that the secretary wants to talk about is how we would see this working,” a senior State Department official said before a scheduled meeting between Clinton and the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
An array of Islamist militant groups have seized control of northern Mali, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The area has emerged as a haven for terrorists.
Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution underscoring its “readiness” to send an international force to evict the militants in response to a request from the Mali government.
While a military plan has yet to be drafted, the basic idea is for forces from Nigeria and other West Africa countries to help Mali’s military mount a campaign against the militants. France, the U.S. and other countries would help with training, intelligence and logistics.
—Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times