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Monday, November 30, 1998 Published at 17:29 GMT

World: Europe

Rome takes Ocalan case to Moscow

German Kurds hold a demonstration in support of Abdullah Ocalan

The Italian Foreign Minister, Lamberto Dini, has held talks in Moscow as efforts continue to resolve the impasse over the fate of the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Mr Ocalan arrived in Rome from Moscow earlier this month under circumstances which have still not been fully explained.

The Russian authorities say they were never able to confirm Ocalan's presence in the country.

He is currently being held under house arrest in Italy after an Italian court refused to send him to Turkey.

"The discussion of the [Ocalan] question was not the purpose of my visit, but we've had a chance to exchange information," Mr Dini told reporters after talks with Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov.

Mr Ivanov said he had "exchanged information" on the issue with his Italian counterpart.

[ image: Mr Dini and Mr Primakov are expected to discuss the growing crisis]
Mr Dini and Mr Primakov are expected to discuss the growing crisis
Neither side gave any further details of their discussions, although the issue was also expected to be discussed during a meeting between Mr Dini and Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov later on Monday.

Correspondents say Italy is looking for a way out of the diplomatic crisis caused by Mr Ocalan's arrest which now threatens to escalate into a trade war with Turkey.

One option is to send him back to Moscow, but the BBC's regional analyst Tom De Waal says Moscow would not look on such a prospect with any pleasure.

Anti-Italian protests

Turkey wants Mr Ocalan extradited on charges of murder and terrorism, but Italy has refused on the grounds that it has the death penalty - the constitution bars extradition to countries which practice capital punishment.

The dispute has sparked widespread anti-Italian protests in Turkey.

Mr Ocalan is also wanted in Germany, but German officials say they won't seek his extradition for fear of unrest among Germany's 2.7 million Turks and Kurds.

Mr Ocalan has applied for political asylum in Italy and has indicated, via his lawyers, that he would be willing to face trial by an international court.

On Monday, Italian Interior Minister Rosa Russo Jervolino indicated that such a possibility was being considered by the government in Rome.

The German and Italian governments have agreed to work together to bring Mr Ocalan before some sort of European or international court.

But in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Monday, Defence Minister Carlo Scognamiglio admitted there were problems.

"It is a very difficult road to take," he said, "because no such international court to try an individual exists."

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