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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 12:04 GMT
Ocalan warns of fresh attacks
Ocalan at his trial
Ocalan at his appeal against the death penalty
The rebel Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has warned that his militant supporters will renew their armed struggle if the Turkish Government launches new attacks against Kurds.


The latest developments... have increased the risk of war

Abdullah Ocalan
"We don't want war but if they come to us with the aim of extermination, we will use our legitimate right to self-defence, which is a universal right," said Mr Ocalan in a statement released by his lawyers.

Mr Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) stopped its 15-year armed campaign for self-rule in September 1999, saying it wanted a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish conflict.

Clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces have been only sporadic since Mr Ocalan ordered his fighters to withdraw from Turkey last year, and to pursue broad cultural rights through political means.

Around 8,000 PKK militants are reported to have moved to northern Iraq since then.

Map of Turkey-Iraq-Iran border

Turkey maintains troops in northern Iraq, which has been out of Baghdad's control since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, but denies reports that it recently sent reinforcements to the region to fight the Turkish Kurds.

"The latest developments in the South (northern Iraq) have both increased the risk of war and brought the possibility of that spreading into the whole area including the north (southeastern Turkey)," Mr Ocalan's statement said.

Kurdish rivals

Mr Ocalan is currently in jail and is attempting to appeal against the death penalty, imposed upon him in 1999 by a Turkish court after his conviction on treason charges.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg granted him the right to appeal against the sentence in a hearing in December last year.

Ankara has made efforts to build an alliance against the PKK with other Kurdish groups - Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) - which administer the breakaway Kurdish enclave.

"What Talabani and Barzani should do is not provoke war, but mediate between Turkey and the PKK to find a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem," Mr Ocalan said in the statement.

Ocalan is held on death row on an island prison in the Sea of Marmara where he is the only prisoner.

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See also:

18 Aug 00 | Europe
Turkey defends anti-rebel raid
09 Feb 00 | Europe
PKK ends war with Turkey
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