In Turkey, Biden touts political freedoms

By the Associated Press | December 3, 2011 | 7:15 AM EST

ISTANBUL (AP) — A free political climate is essential to economic innovation, and countries that try to censor the Internet are pursuing a "dead end," U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told a group of young entrepreneurs gathered in Istanbul on Saturday.

The international forum, which drew hundreds of attendees, followed up on a meeting in Washington last year aimed at deepening ties between the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

Biden said a political system based on freedom of speech and religion also is the "truest shield" against sectarian strife that has afflicted the Middle East, as well as western Europe in past centuries.

Turkey's deputy prime minister, Ali Babacan, said Turkey was an example for the region of how Islam and democracy can coexist peacefully.

The U.S. leader arrived in Turkey late Thursday and has been meeting with top officials here. He has urged Turkey to impose new sanctions on Iran, while praising Ankara for its role in pressuring Syria to stop its deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Also Saturday, Biden visited Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is recovering from a surgery.