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Turkey calls on Gaddafi to step down ‘immediately’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped up diplomatic pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Tuesday and urged him to "take a historic step". Turkey has so far adopted a conciliatory approach toward the embattled dictator.

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AP - Turkey’s prime minister said Tuesday that Moammar Gadhafi must “immediately step down,” a major escalation of Turkish pressure on the Libyan leader with whom Turkey has long-standing ties.

Gadhafi has ignored calls for change in Libya and instead preferred “blood, tears and pressure against his own people,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference in Istanbul. “Gadhafi must take a historic step and withdraw, for the future of Libya, its peace and prosperity.”

Previously, Turkish leaders had gently urged Gadhafi to meet demands for change from the rebellious opposition, then suggested that he step down. But Erdogan’s comments on Tuesday were his strongest public message to Gadhafi yet.

Last month, Erdogan proposed a roadmap for peace in Libya, urging forces loyal to Gadhafi to withdraw from besieged cities and calling for the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors and comprehensive democratic change.

On Monday, Turkey temporarily closed its embassy in the Libyan capital due to deteriorating security and its staff were evacuated to Tunisia. On Sunday, vandals burned the British and Italian embassies and a U.N. office in Tripoli. The U.N. has withdrawn its international staff. The Turkish consulate in rebel-controlled Benghazi, Libya, remains open.

Turkey initially balked at the idea of military action in Libya, but citing its responsibilities as a NATO member it took part in the enforcement of an arms embargo on Libya while volunteering to lead humanitarian aid efforts.

Turkey has vast trade interests in Libya, where Turkish companies have been involved in lucrative construction projects worth billions of dollars, building hospitals, shopping malls and five-star hotels before the chaos.
 

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