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EU satisfied with Turkish reforms

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EU satisfied with Turkish reforms

The European Union enlargement chief has voiced satisfaction with Turkey's reforms as Ankara presses for formal negotiations on its EU membership bid.

Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said there were "no more obstacles" for Turkey on its path towards opening accession talks.

Turkey's prime minister confirmed a new penal code did not include a controversial clause banning adultery.

Ankara's delay in adopting the code had earlier troubled EU officials.

But the Turkish parliament has now decided to reconvene on Sunday to discuss it.

The BBC's Tim Franks in Brussels says this is the clearest signal yet that the EU is ready to start talks, after Turkey's diplomatic push had been complicated by the row over the adultery clause.

Mr Verheugen told reporters after his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that "we have been able to find solutions for the remaining outstanding problems".

"From my point of view there are no further conditions which Turkey must fulfil in order to allow the commission to make a recommendation," he said.

Mr Erdogan said there was now no reason not to get a positive response from the EU, adding that Turkey had "worked very hard" to fulfil the criteria.

"No item which is not already included in the draft of the Turkish criminal code will be included and I mean by that the issue of adultery," he said.

But he added that while he and his government were bound by what was in the code he could not speak for future governments.

A report by the commission due on 6 October will say whether Brussels believes talks on the Turkish bid should go ahead.

Delays

The Turkish government was earlier frustrated that the commission was making such heavy weather about the package of legal reforms, our correspondent.

But equally, officials at the commission have said it is very worrying that Mr Erdogan appears not to be in control of his own Islamist MPs.

Earlier, Mr Verheugen's spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori said "we would like to know what will happen now in Turkey... at what speed the reform process... will go forward".

Mr Erdogan's government last week withdrew the legal code bill from parliament, as a result of pressure from hardline Muslim groups who want to make adultery illegal.

The bill had also proposed the strengthening of freedom of expression, women's rights and increased the penalties for torture and rape.

Turkey has been an EU candidate since 1999.

The final decision on whether to start full membership talks rests with the leaders of the EU member states, who are due to make up their minds in December.

But leaders will be aware of growing concerns across the EU about a country seen as just too big, too poor, too distant, and too Muslim, our correspondent says.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3682172.stm

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