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Istanbul's new mayor 'prepared' for government restrictions

ISTANBUL (AP) — The new mayor of Istanbul said Friday he is ready to work with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but that he was also preparing to deal with any attempts by the government to restrict his powers.

Speaking to international media in Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu said the government had already put into practice new regulations to bypass the mayor in appointments to municipal companies and to give authority to municipal assemblies where Erdogan's party has a majority. The mayor said such measures were against the current laws governing local government.

"We are prepared even for the most risky situations," said Imamoglu, who won last weekend's rerun definitively. "Right now I am the Metropolitan Mayor of Istanbul and Mr. Erdogan is President. I think we can contribute great things to this country and the city by coming to an agreement."

Imamoglu was elected mayor for a second time Sunday after Turkey's electoral board annulled the results of the March 31 polls in Turkey's largest city. He beat his opponent, the government candidate Binali Yildirim, with more than 806,000 votes.

Days before the election's re-run, Erdogan hinted that the judiciary could investigate Imamoglu, who represents the opposition Republican People's Party, for allegedly insulting a public official. Since his stunning victory, which represented a major setback for Erdogan, the president quickly congratulated the mayor. And in a speech Thursday in Japan where he is attending the Group of 20 leaders' summit, Erdogan struck a somewhat conciliatory tone in, saying his party would support "realistic projects to the benefit of Istanbul."

"But we will never support unacceptable projects for the benefit of Istanbul." Earlier Friday, the leader of Imamoglu's party in Istanbul went on trial on numerous charges, including insulting the country's president and allegations of terror propaganda, with sentences up to 17 years in prison.

Canan Kaftancioglu has called the trial, which was adjourned until July 18, "politically motivated." Imamoglu echoed her position and said he stands with Kaftancioglu "until the very end." The mayor has been busy since his victory, outlining plans to combat Istanbul's paralyzing traffic and citywide poverty. He is also looking to address the issues of refugees living in Istanbul. Over half a millions Syrian refugees live in the city.

Associated Press television news editor Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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