Turkish Foreign Minister Resigns From Ailing Government

Turkey's foreign minister resigned Thursday, the Anatolia news agency reported, dealing a harsh blow to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who is struggling to stay in power despite mass resignations from his party. 

Foreign Minister Ismail Cem is the seventh Cabinet minister to leave Ecevit's administration since Monday. 

The government has been largely paralyzed since the 77-year-old Ecevit fell ill in May. Since then, he either has been hospitalized or at home recuperating. 

Cem told Anatolia in a written statement that he resigned and would give his reasoning in a news conference Friday. 

Turkish media have been speculating that Cem could join a new political party led by former Deputy Premier Husamettin Ozkan, who resigned on Monday. 

One of the most prominent figures in Ecevit's party, Cem has served as foreign minister under three different governments since 1997. 

He has played a key role in developing Turkey's ties with the European Union and improving relations with archrival Greece. 

His personal friendship with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, was instrumental in forging closer ties. 

The resignation of the foreign minister comes as Turkey has taken over leadership of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan and Washington is considering military action against Iraq. Turkey borders Iraq and hosted coalition aircraft during the Persian Gulf War.