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Monday, February 15, 1999 Published at 19:01 GMT

World: Europe

Kurd sacrifice for Ocalan

Several demonstrators tried to put the blaze out

A Kurdish supporter of the fugitive rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has been taken to hospital in Athens with serious burns after setting himself on fire during a demonstration outside the Greek parliament.

Riot police were called in to disperse more than 100 Kurds, who were demanding that Greece give political asylum to Mr Ocalan, who is wanted in Turkey on terrorism charges.

Police said the demonstrator suffered serious burns to the face and hands, while another protester standing nearby received slight burns and was also treated for shock.

Earlier Greek police moved several hundred Iraqi and Turkish Kurdish immigrants out of a temporary encampment and held them on buses for hours to stop them joining the protest.

Asylum denial

Meanwhile the Greek government has denied receiving an asylum request from Mr Ocalan.

It also denied reports it had asked the European Union to find him a permanent refuge elsewhere.

[ image: Mr Ocalan: His current whereabouts are unknown]
Mr Ocalan: His current whereabouts are unknown
"There has been no submission of an application for political asylum for Mr Ocalan," Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

Correspondents say Athens fears a further deterioration in relations with traditional rival Ankara if it allows the Kurdish fugitive to enter the country.

Mr Ocalan's separatist group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, says he has requested asylum in Greece, Russia, Italy and the Netherlands.

Mr Ocalan has also demanded guarantees for his personal safety until a decision on possible asylum is reached.

Many countries in the European Union are sympathetic to the Kurdish cause, but they are also reluctant to jeopardise their relations with Turkey.

Desperate appeals

BBC regional analyst Roger Hardy says that the PKK leader is a fugitive whose increasingly desperate appeals appear to be falling on deaf ears.

The Kurdish leader has been looking for a host country after leaving Italy in January but his whereabouts since then has remained a mystery.

His arrest in Rome last year led to a bitter row between Italy and Turkey, after the Italian government refused to extradite him to Turkey where he is wanted on terrorism charges.

The PKK has waged an armed struggle for the rights of Turkey's Kurdish minority over the last decade and a half.

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