Turkish army defiant to Gul despite reconciliation calls
* Presidentís wife was not invited at Victory Day
ANKARA: Turkish President Abdullah Gul attended the armyís Victory Day on Thursday, but his wife, who wears the Islamic headscarf, was not invited in a fresh snub by the secular establishment.
Since Gulís election by parliament on Tuesday, the army has failed to accord its new commander-in-chief, a former Islamist, some of the traditional signs of respect - a stance that has been criticised even by Gulís opponents.
First lady Hayrunnisa Gul, whose headscarf hardline secularists view as a symbol of political Islam, was absent from the Victory Day parade, as was the wife of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who also covers her head.
The military has always refused, since Erdoganís Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, to invite the wives of government officials who wear headscarves.
But this was the first time the wife of a president was not invited.
Gul sat between Erdogan and chief of general staff Yasar Buyukanit, but the three barely exchanged remarks as they solemnly watched the ceremony.
Gulís wife was also expected to be absent from a traditional Victory Day reception hosted by the military Thursday evening, her name reportedly omitted from the invitation sent to the president.
A headscarf ban in Turkish government offices and universities is strictly enforced by the military. Officers whose wives cover up are not promoted and sometimes cashiered.
Gulís election was a major victory for the Islamist-rooted AKP over army-backed hardline secularists who blocked his first presidential bid in April, arguing that the party was seeking to erode the separation of religion and state.
Gul, who was foreign minister since 2003, has repeatedly denied the charges and pledged loyalty to the secular system.
The generals had sent an immediate signal of intent on Tuesday when, in an unprecedented gesture, they snubbed his oath-taking ceremony.
The army, which has unseated four governments in as many decades, had warned on the eve of the parliamentary vote that installed Gul as president that ďcentres of evilĒ were seeking to erode the secular system.
On Gulís first full day in office Wednesday, Buyukanit and other commanders pointedly failed to give him the customary salute as they mounted the podium during a graduation ceremony at an elite military academy. afp