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Thursday, 18 February, 1999, 13:21 GMT
Ocalan fallout hits Greece
The false Cypriot passport used by Abdullah Ocalan
The false Cypriot passport used by Abdullah Ocalan
By Paul Wood in Athens

The Greek Government has been left reeling from the Ocalan affair.

Criticised by both friends and enemies, Greece faces charges of betrayal and incompetence over its dealings with the PKK leader now in Turkish hands.

Greek officials had been sheltering Abdullah Ocalan, the rebel Kurdish leader, at the Greek ambassador's residence in Nairobi, but "lost" him in still unexplained circumstances as he was driven to the airport in the Kenyan capital.

During an emergency debate in parliament, deputies from the governing socialist Pasok party called for the resignation of their own Foreign Minister, Theodoros Pangalos.

'Humiliating moment'

Even the stock market dipped two percentage points amid general dismay at the debacle and fears that the government would be destabilised.

"This is the most humiliating moment in Greece's history," one Pasok deputy told Greek television.

Kurdish protester in Athens
A Kurdish protester in Athens is dragged away by police
Greek newspapers reported that Mr Ocalan had told his lawyer during the frantic attempts to gain political asylum that he was caught between Turkey and Greece "the bandit state on the one hand, and the comedy state on the other".

During frequently bad-tempered parliamentary exchanges, Mr Pangalos rounded on opposition deputies who claimed that Mr Ocalan was deliberately handed over to the Turkish security services.

"That is the most despicable and worthless accusation I have ever heard in this chamber," he said. "My only consolation is that it comes from you."

But it is the open split within Pasok which is most serious Prime Minister Costas Smitis. He is already beset by protesting students, farmers and public sector workers as a result of his austerity drive to prepare Greece for entry into the European single currency.

Simitis defiant

Pasok MP Costas Bandouvas, who had led a lobbying effort for Greece to grant asylum to Mr Ocalan, called a news conference to denounce a "disgrace and stain" on the reputation of modern Greece.

Some Pasok officials have called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the role played by the government in the whole affair.

Mr Simitis has been absent from the political stage during the past two days of raging controversy, laid low with the flu and a 40C temperature, according to his office.

However, overnight he issued a defiant statement, saying that it was the Kenyan authorities who had to explain what had happened to Mr Ocalan, not the Greek government.

Nevertheless, Pasok is now braced for heavy losses in European elections later this year and many government supporters now appear resigned to the prospect of losing the general election, which has to be held before the middle of next year.

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