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Erdogan: Taksim Plans To Go Ahead, Despite Protests


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife, Emine, step off the plane upon their arrival in Tunis on June 5.
ISTANBUL -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government will go ahead with controversial plans to redevelop Istanbul's Taksim Square, despite mass antigovernment protests.

Erdogan, speaking to reporters in Tunis, also said that members of a "terrorist organization" were taking part in the nationwide demonstrations.

Erdogan, who did not provide any specifics, added that seven foreigners implicated in the unrest had been arrested.

He said that an inquiry had been launched to "determine the manner" in which they took part in the violent protests.

Erdogan is expected to return to Turkey on June 6 after concluding his tour of North Africa, which included visits to Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

The prime minister's remarks prompted strong reactions by some Turks.

Eren Yammik, 24-year-old graduate student in media communications, told RFE/RL in Taksim Square that Erdogan's announcement to overhaul Taksim Square was in line with his unwavering leadership style.

"That's Erdogan's style. He always does the same [thing]. He says he's going to do something and he does it. He never goes back," Yammik said.

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A 42-year-old tour guide in Istanbul, who asked to be identified as Esra, said Erdogan is a dictator who will not give in despite mass protests calling on him to resign.

"I don't think he's going to apologize, but as long as he doesn't apologize this protest will go on," he said. "So, eventually, he's going to [get] some pressure to apologize, but I don't know how he's going to do that."

Erdogan's deputy, Bulent Arinc, has apologized for police violence.

Unrest in Turkey began on May 31 after police cracked down on protests over the redevelopment of Taksim.

Since then, the protests have grown in size and spread from Istanbul to the capital, Ankara, and other cities.

At least two people have been killed and thousands injured -- including hundreds of police -- since the protests began.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Glenn Kates in Istanbul, Reuters, and AFP

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