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Published: Tuesday March 4, 2014 MYT 7:11:56 PM
Updated: Tuesday March 4, 2014 MYT 7:11:56 PM

Turkey's Gul orders auditors to assess capacity to fight corruption

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Abdullah Gul ordered state auditors on Tuesday to assess Turkey's ability to combat corruption, including in the construction sector, amid a graft investigation that has implicated senior elected officials.

In a statement on his website, Gul also said he had instructed the State Supervisory Council to examine regulations governing the wiretapping of communications.

"The president has given instructions... to assess the institutional and regulatory capacity regarding wiretapping in our nation and to determine what measures need to be taken to comply with the law ... (and to) research and inquire about the capacity to fight corruption," the statement said.

In one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is battling a series of allegations that he, members of his family and senior government officials took bribes and engaged in other improprieties.

Erdogan, a popular leader whose party has been elected three times since 2002, has accused a U.S.-based Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, and his followers of concocting the charges to sway voters ahead of a local election this month.

Gul, a co-founder of Erdogan's centre-right AK Party and a former prime minister and foreign minister, has come under pressure to speak out on the corruption scandals.

As head of state, Gul has to tread a delicate line between remaining politically neutral while supporting the rule of law and institutional stability in Turkey.

According to the statement, Gul's order also requires auditors to look at the process by which judges and prosecutors are chosen and to assess rules surrounding "state secrets".

Last month, parliament approved a new law tightening control of the judiciary, a move Erdogan's critics say is a further attempt to snuff out the corruption allegations after the government dismissed or reassigned thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Writing by Gareth Jones; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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