|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-316235 U-S / Turkish Cyprus (L-O)
TITLE=U-S / TURKISH CYPRUS (L-ONLY)
INTRO: The Bush administration Wednesday said it no longer recognizes veteran Turkish-Cypriot political figure Rauf Denktash as the leader of the Turkish community on the island. Mr. Denktash, the elected president of the self-declared Turkish Republic in Northern Cyprus, angered U-S officials by opposing the United Nations' Cyprus settlement plan. V-O-A's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
TEXT: Though it doesn't formally recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or T-R-N-C, the United States has had a dialogue over the years with Mr. Denktash, who has been president of the entity for two decades.
Now, officials here say the Bush administration considers the Turkish community's leader to be the T-R-N-C prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, who represented Turkish Cypriots at U-N sponsored Cyprus peace talks in Switzerland earlier this year.
Unlike Mr. Denktash, Mr. Talat was an outspoken supporter of U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Cyprus settlement plan, which would have united Turkish and Greek Cypriots under a loose federation.
The Annan plan was scuttled when Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected it in a referendum April 24th.
Mr. Talat led a successful effort to get the Annan plan approved by Turkish Cypriots. And in a gesture widely seen as a reward for his efforts, Secretary of State Colin Powell met him at the United Nations earlier this month in the highest-level meeting between the United States and the T-R-N-C since 1991.
Mr. Talat has since met with other U-S diplomats, including Cyprus coordinator Thomas Weston. Without saying that the United States has severed contacts with Mr. Denktash, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters it now sees Mr. Talat as the Turkish-Cypriot leader:
This is a decision about who we can deal with as a leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community. That is Mr. Talat. That is the person that they put forward as their delegate, their head of delegation, their negotiator, their representative at Switzerland. That is the person who's carried this process forward, and who's continued to carry it forward. And he's the person that we meet with as the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community.
The failure of Annan plan to win approval from both Cypriot communities meant that the internationally-recognized Greek-Cypriot government entered the European Union by itself May 1st.
The E-U has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and other steps to help the less-wealthy T-R-N-C deal with its exclusion from the community.
Spokesman Boucher said the United States is similarly considering a "series of steps that can ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots." He said a review of the issue is progressing, but would not predict when such a program might be announced.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. The T-R-N-C, founded in 1983, is recognized only by Turkey. (Signed)
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