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Turkey's Erdogan dismisses speculation over his health

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he addresses the media before leaving for Turkmenistan at Esenboga Airport in Ankara Augu
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he addresses the media before leaving for Turkmenistan at Esenboga Airport in Ankara Augu

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan dismissed reports he was sick and had been hospitalized in the past week on Thursday and questioned the media's motives for speculating on his health.

On Monday, the Yurt newspaper and other Turkish dailies said Erdogan had spent five days in hospital with an upset stomach but provided no source for the reports. His office called the reports "baseless allegations" later that day.

"Praise God, I am doing just fine. As to what hospital I was in, what happened in hospital and so on, nothing like that happened. I just rested after the holiday for a few days and adjusted my program accordingly. There is nothing wrong," he told reporters in Ankara before travelling to Turkmenistan.

"This side of the media is very bad, you should question yourselves a little. Where do they find such lies? ... A person should have some shame," he said.

Speculation about Erdogan's health has been rife since he had surgery to remove polyps from his intestines in late 2011.

Polyps are abnormal growths of tissue which can be cancerous. Turkish media cited Erdogan's doctor as saying the polyps had been harmless following the surgery.

The 59-year-old leader, in power since 2003, usually speaks daily on television and travels frequently in the country. But he had not appeared in public since speaking to reporters last Thursday after praying at a mosque at the start of the holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Power in Turkey is centralized around Erdogan, who has made little secret about his desire to become president. Previous absences have sparked speculation over his health as well as possible rifts within his party.

(Reporting by Jonathon Burch, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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