President Abdullah Gul has dismissed suggestions that outside forces are conspiring against Turkey, openly contradicting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's assertions that a corruption scandal shaking the country is part of a foreign-backed plot, Reuters reported.
The graft inquiry swirling around Erdogan's government has grown into the biggest challenge of his 11-year-rule. He has repeatedly cast it as a scheme by political enemies at home and abroad to damage him ahead of March 30 local elections.
"I don't accept allegations about foreign powers and I don't find them right ... I don't believe in these conspiracy theories as if there are some people trying to destroy Turkey," the Hurriyet newspaper quoted Gul as telling reporters during a visit to Denmark.
"Of course Turkey has its long-standing opponents in the world. Certain groups have praised our work for the past 10 years... Now that they are criticizing us, why is this an issue? These types of comments are for third world countries," he said.
"The political atmosphere we are in is not making any of us happy. It doesn't make me happy. I am both troubled and saddened by the things we are going through," Gul was quoted as saying, according to Reuters.
Gul has been under growing pressure from both within and outside Turkey to calm tensions generated by the graft scandal and is seen as a potential successor to Erdogan as prime minister and head of the AK Party, should Erdogan decide to run for the presidency in an August vote.
He and Erdogan had appeared to have closed ranks since the graft scandal erupted in December, with Gul approving controversial laws tightening Internet controls and giving the government greater influence over the judiciary - moves seen by Erdogan's critics as an authoritarian response to the probe.
Erdogan himself has repeatedly denied any suggestion of corruption and has accused his former ally, U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, of orchestrating the graft investigation through a "parallel state" of his supporters in the judiciary and police. Gulen denies the allegations.