Turkey to grant visa to Kadeer

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised Thursday to grant a visa to exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, a day after she said she had twice been denied entry to his country.

"I learnt from the foreign ministry that she had previously applied for a visa. If she makes a new application, we will give her a visa," Erdogan told reporters in Ankara before flying to the G8 summit in Italy.

His remarks came a day after Kadeer -- president of the World Uighur Congress -- told Turkey's NTV news channel that her application for a Turkish visa were denied in 2006 and 2007.

The 62-year-old Kadeer -- who has been living in the United States since March 2005 after being deported by China -- is blamed by Chinese officials for instigating the unrest in Xinjiang where at least 156 people have died.

Erdogan on Wednesday condemned the violence as an "atrocity" and said his country would put the matter on the agenda of the UN Security Council -- a call rejected by China.

Xinjiang's Turkic-speaking and Muslim Uighurs number about eight million and make up nearly half the population of the region, a vast area of deserts and mountains rich in natural resources that borders ex-Soviet Central Asia.

Many Uighurs have sought refuge in Turkey, where some Islamist and nationalist groups lend support to demands for an independent Uighur homeland in the region.

But Turkey's official policy has been to support China's territorial integrity and oppose any separatist movements.