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Friday, July 17, 1998 Published at 22:59 GMT 23:59 UK

World: Europe

Call to recognise Turkish Kurds

There are around 10 million Kurds in Turkey

The leader of the opposition Islamist party in Turkey has called for the ethnic identity of the country's estimated 10 million Kurds to be officially recognised.

The semi-official Anatolia news agency quoted the leader of the Virtue party, Recai Kutan, as saying that ethnic identities enrich Turkey.

But Mr Kutan said his party - the largest in parliament - opposed Kurdish separatism.

His remarks came as fighting continued between Turkish security forces and a separatist Kurdish movement in southeast Turkey.

Turkey has frequently been criticised by its western allies for refusing to grant minority rights to the Kurds, and for some of its security operations against Kurdish separatist guerrillas.

More than 30,000 people have been killed since the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched its armed campaign in 1984 for a Kurdish homeland in an area bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Discrimination denied

The Turkish Government denies that the Kurds are discriminated against.

Under the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which set the basis of the modern Turkish republic, Kurds - among other Muslim groups - are not considered a minority.

The Kurdish language is spoken freely but radio and television broadcasts and education in Kurdish are banned under the constitution because Turkey's official language is Turkish.

Government officials say nearly one fifth of members of the Turkish parliament, including parliament speaker Hikmet Cetin, are of Kurdish origin.

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