Kurd Rebels Foresee War If No Reforms

TUNCELI (Reuters)–A Kurdish rebel leader has threatened a return to violence if Turkey’s new government does not pass an amnesty for political prisoners and boost Kurdish cultural rights–a TV station close to the rebels said on Monday.

In August–European Union hopeful Turkey scrapped the death penalty in peacetime–and lifted a ban on Kurdish-language broadcasts and education. But Brussels wants to see implementation before granting the Muslim country a date to begin membership talks.

The government formed on Monday by the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) has pledged to fulfill economic and social reforms in the hope it can win a date from the EU at a summit in Copenhagen on December 12.

Kurdish separatists now mainly based in northern Iraq have said they seek greater rights for Kurds through peaceful means after their armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey largely ended with the arrest of their commander in 1999.

More than 30,000 people died in the conflict that began in 1984–but fighting is now reduced to sporadic clashes.

"For the risk of war to be completely lifted and a lasting peace to be ensured–a political amnesty must be introduced," Osman Ocalan–brother of jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan–was quoted as saying by Medya TV–a Europe-based satellite broadcaster monitored in Turkey.

"The state should support unrestricted Kurdish education. The law that was passed is inadequate…Kurdish broadcasting should also be developed without restrictions," he told Medya TV from his base in northern Iraq.

"If these are not taken onto the agenda the risk of war will appear," he said–giving the new government a deadline of six months to take action on Kurdish rights.

Despite their withdrawal from Turkey–the rebels–once known as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)–still have arms and have threatened violence in the past if their deman’s for cultural rights are not met.

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