Turk foreign minister chides France over EU stance

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ANKARA, Nov 21 (Reuters) Turkey's foreign minister chided France today over its stance on Ankara's bid to join the European Union and vowed to press on with political reforms.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy opposes Turkey joining the EU and says the Muslim but secular country is not really part of Europe and should instead be offered a special partnership.

At Sarkozy's insistence, the EU has agreed to establish a 'wise persons' committee to report on Europe's long-term shape and role. Turkey's supporters in the EU, such as Britain, have said this must not call into question Ankara's EU accession bid.

''France's attitude to Turkey's EU process saddens us. It negatively affects our people's wishes regarding the EU,'' Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a gathering attended by visiting members of the European Parliament.

''We hope the EU process will continue as promised... and that the EU will observe the principle that agreements are binding. There can be no doubt Turkey will carry out its reforms, not to win EU approval but for their own sake.''.

Babacan reviewed Turkey's reform progress during a visit to Brussels yesterday.

The top-selling Hurriyet daily quoted Babacan today as saying Turkey planned ''speedy and surprising reforms'' once parliament has approved the 2008 budget. But he gave no details.

The EU is especially keen for Turkey to amend article 301 of its penal code which makes it a crime to insult ''Turkishness'' or state institutions. The government has signalled it may change the article, which has been used against writers and scholars.

REUTERS RJ RK1631

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