Istanbul man fires shots in suspected protest over Benedict visit

Istanbul police have detained a man who fired shots in the air outside the Italian consulate in what is feared to be a protest at against Pope Benedict's forthcoming visit to Turkey later this month.

The protester had tossed his gun into the garden of the Istanbul residence of the consul general, which is in the same compound as the consulate building, after allegedly firing the shots, the Australian reports.

The protester shouted, "I am happy to be a Muslim" as he was detained.

An Italian diplomat in Ankara confirmed the incident and said it appeared to be directed at the Italian diplomatic mission, but added it was not sure whether the shooting was in protest at the papal visit.

Police detained the suspect and took him to a nearby police station in the crowded Beyoglu district for interrogation.

Meanwhile, despite reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will snub the Pope during his 28 November to 1 December visit, AsiaNews reports that an aide of Mr Erdogan says that a meeting between the two men is still possible.

The aide said that the Prime Minister had not excluded meeting the Pope, and that he would be glad to meet him if both sides could agree on the timing.

Mr Erdogan's willingness is confirmed by a Vatican press release which noted that the Holy See already knew from preparing the papal visit that the Turkish Prime Minister would be involved in a NATO summit in Latvia and that he would try to be at home to meet the Holy Father but that he could not guarantee his presence. In his absence, the deputy prime minister would represent him.

The Turkish Prime Minister's absence had been taken for granted ever since President Necdet Sezer agreed to the Pope's visit.

Man fires shots to protest Pope (The Australian, 3/11/06)
Few concerned over missed Erdogan-Pope meeting, which still might happen (AsiaNews, 2/11/06)

Speculation mounts on Benedict visit to N Ireland (2/11/06)

3 Nov 2006