Ankara mayor in chewing gum retort to Sarkozy

Chewed gum as he saw off French president in retaliation

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The mayor of Ankara chewed gum when he saw off Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of a visit to Turkey in retaliation to similar "disrespect" by the French president, Anatolia news agency reported Saturday.

Mayor Melih Gokcek, a colorful but controversial figure in Turkish politics, was part of the delegation that greeted and then saw off Sarkozy at the airport during his brief visit to Turkey on Friday.

"Sarkozy came down the steps of the plane chewing a wad of gum. He stopped for a moment, looked around and continued to chew... I personally was offended," Gokcek told Anatolia.

"Previously, he showed similar disrespect to our President Abdullah Gul in France," the mayor said, without elaborating.

"And when we were seeing him off, I never took out the chewing gum from my mouth... Someone had to respond. I believe I responded diplomatically... There is something called reciprocity," he said.

Sarkozy, who has long irritated Turks with his vocal opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union, spent several hours in a chilly atmosphere in Ankara, visiting as chairman of the G-20 group of leading economies.

At a joint press conference with Gul, he reiterated his objections to Turkey's EU accession, urging an alternative partnership for the mainly Muslim nation before its already faltering membership talks hit a "deadlock".