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Basques To Host Kurd Meeting

February 10, 1999

VITORIA, Spain (AP) _ Local lawmakers in the Basque region of Spain agreed Tuesday to host a meeting of the Kurdish parliament-in-exile, angering their own government and Turkey’s.

``I don’t think that Basque people would support this,″ said Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. ``It would be an unfriendly act.″

Earlier meetings of the 65-member group in cities across Europe have triggered similar protests from Turkey, which claims the self-styled parliament is a front for the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey since 1984.

The decision to hold the meeting in July was made by a five-member panel of the local parliament in the Basque region, where many residents favor autonomy from Spain.

Basque parliamentary speaker Juan Maria Atutxa, whose Basque Nationalist Party supports independence, said he had no plans to discuss the issue with the Spanish government because he considers the Basque legislature to be ``sovereign.″

Spain’s foreign ministry said it ``deeply regrets″ the Basque parliament’s move, saying it could hurt Spanish economy by triggering an anti-Spanish backlash in Turkey.

``It is very important to preserve our close relations with Turkey,″ foreign ministry spokesman Jorge Cabezas said.

Meanwhile, a group of Greek legislators on Tuesday asked the government to grant political asylum to Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, a demand which Greece has said it will not even consider.

Ocalan, the head of the PKK, has been on the run from Turkish authorities since leaving Italy on Jan. 16. Turkey has warned that any country harboring him will be considered an enemy.

Ocalan ``has suffered unacceptable treatment by the world, and particularly by Europe,″ said Costas Bandouvas, a deputy with the governing Socialist party.

Many Greek legislators have voiced strong support for the rebel leader, citing human rights violations in Turkey’s crackdown on separatist Kurds.

No European country has granted Ocalan political asylum, and the Greek government has indicated its reluctance, apparently concerned about increasing tension in already strained relations with Turkey.

The two countries have gone to war twice in the past 12 years, and are at odds over territorial rights and other issues.

Ocalan’s whereabouts are unknown and the Greek government has adamantly denied persistent rumors that he was in Greece last week.

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