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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 04:25 GMT


UK warns tourists on Turkey

13 people died in a petrol-bomb attack in Istanbul at the weekend

The Foreign Office has said travellers should be alert if they visit Turkey.

The move follows a warning from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), that it will attack tourist destinations unless the rebel group's captured leader Abdullah Ocalan is released.

UK diplomats have stopped short of telling travellers not to visit the popular holiday destination.

But official government advice now includes the warning from the PKK that holidaymakers should avoid Turkey.

'Cancel reservations'

A pro-Kurdish news agency based in Germany quoted a rebel statement warning tourists that they would no longer be safe in Turkey.

The organisation said its campaign had entered what it called "a new phase" since Turkey's capture last month of Mr Ocalan.

"It is essential that no tourist comes to Turkey, that governments warn their citizens and that travel companies cancel reservations," the statement said.

Tourism is a vital source of revenue for Turkey, which gets about nine million visitors a year, many bound for its Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.

Revenue from tourism was $7bn in 1997.

BBC Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris says the warning is inflammatory and threatening but it is not clear whether the PKK has the ability to launch a sustained bombing campaign across the country.

Tension rises

The group has targeted tourist destinations in the past, killing and injuring several foreigners but has not done any serious harm to Turkey's tourism industry.

The Foreign Office has now redrafted its advice, which already said tension had increased following Mr Ocalan's arrest.

The new version includes the words: "The PKK has warned tourists against visiting Turkey.

"There have been no recent terrorist incidents in coastal resort areas. But these cannot be ruled out in the present climate."

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