Reuters International

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a working dinner with heads of delegations for the Nuclear Security Summit at the White House in Washington March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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ZAGREB (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the state should have an equal distance from all religious faiths following a call by the speaker of Turkey's parliament for a new constitution to drop references to secularism.

Erdogan said in televised comments during a visit to Zagreb that the speaker, Ismail Kahraman, had been expressing his own views when he said Turkey needed a religious constitution. The proposal contradicts the founding principles of the Turkish republic, which is overwhelmingly Muslim but also secular.

"My views are known on this ... The reality is that the state should have an equal distance from all religious faiths ... This is laicism," Erdogan said.

Kahraman's comments provoked opposition condemnation and a brief street protest on Tuesday. He later said his comments were "personal views".

(Reporting by Igor Ilic in Zagreb and Seda Sezer in Istanbul; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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