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Monday, December 14, 1998 Published at 10:42 GMT

World: Europe

Ocalan renounces armed struggle

Kurdish rebels: Denounced by their leader

Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has called his own guerrillas "murderers" and says he wants nothing more to do with their tactics.

Mr Ocalan, currently under house arrest in Rome, also accused his military commanders of disobeying his orders and said he could no longer work with them.

Chris Morris in Ankara: Mr Ocalan is trying to improve his image in Europe
The rebel leader said his Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was being destroyed in its armed campaign for self-rule in Turkey's southeast.

"In fighting, most of them are no better than murderers,'' Mr Ocalan told the Kurdish satellite television channel Med-TV.

"If the guerrillas want to continue what they have been doing for 15 years, then I have nothing to do with them."


The BBC's Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris says Mr Ocalan's comments are part of a process in which he and the PKK are trying to persuade political opinion in Europe that violence is not their only option and that they are prepared to move into the political field.

Our correspondent says there is a lot of contradiction in Mr Ocalan's position as he tries to appeal to politicians in Europe who have indicated they could be sympathetic if he were to take a different course, while also seeking to shore up his support base among Kurdish activists.

He says Mr Ocalan's comments will not impress Turkey, which regards him as a murderer playing for time.

[ image: Mr Ocalan: Distancing himself from PKK violence]
Mr Ocalan: Distancing himself from PKK violence
Mr Ocalan, who co-founded the PKK in 1978, remains under house arrest in Rome, where he arrived a month ago from Russia.

Turkey holds Mr Ocalan responsible for more than 29,000 deaths and wants him sent back for trial.

But Italy refuses to extradite people to countries where they might face the death penalty.

Mr Ocalan has said he is willing to stand trial in an international court - an option rejected by Ankara.

In the broadcast Mr Ocalan also called on other Kurdish groups, many of whom are opposed to the PKK's armed struggle, to ally themselves with him.

And he appealed to the West to intervene and provide a protection zone for the Kurdish people like the one imposed by the United Nations in northern Iraq.

"What they have done for southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq) they should do for northern Kurdistan (southeastern Turkey) too," he said.

Ocalan blames his deputy

In an interview with a Turkish newspaper on Sunday, Mr Ocalan also blamed his former right-hand man Semdin Sakik for PKK atrocities.

In particular he absolved himself of responsibility for the killings of Turkish primary school teachers in southeastern Anatolia.

Mr Sakik, former second-in-command of the PKK, fled the rebel organisation earlier this year after falling out with Mr Ocalan.

He was captured by the Turkish army in northern Iraq in April.

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