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Turkish Kurdish Rebel Groups Dissolve

November 11, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ The Kurdish guerrilla group that battled the Turkish army for some 15 years announced Tuesday that it was dissolving itself and was planning to form a new group that would likely be pan-Kurdish and would pursue Kurdish rights through negotiations.

The Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK changed its name to the Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan or KADEK last year and announced a shift in strategy saying it would peacefully campaign for Kurdish rights.

KADEK on Monday said it was dissolving to allow for the formation of a more democratic, broader group, but gave few details.

The turmoil comes as the guerrillas face increasing pressure from Turkey and the United States, which both consider the guerrillas as terrorists. The group’s main fighting force of some 5,000 is based in the mountains of northern Iraq and is expected to face serious pressure from U.S. and Turkish forces as Washington struggles to bring stability to Iraq.

Turkey and the United States have agreed to a joint plan to combat the group and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Monday that KADEK fighters clashed with Turkish and U.S. forces Sunday in northern Iraq. There were no reports of U.S. or Turkish casualties.

``KADEK is being dissolved in order to make way for a new, more democratic organizational structure that allows for broader participation,″ the group said in a statement.

Adem Uzun, KADEK representative in Rome, confirmed that the group is disbanding itself.

``We have been talking about a new formation for some time,″ Uzun said.

The statement added that the group’s goal would be ``negotiating a peaceful settlement with the dominant nation states.″

The statement gave few other details.

Umut Ardan, a press spokesman for KADEK, said that the guerrillas would soon hold a press conference in northern Iraq. He gave no date or details, but said that the group was looking to form a regional organization.

Turkey, home to some 12 million Kurds, has the world’s largest Kurdish minority, but neighboring Syria, Iraq and Iran also have substantial Kurdish populations. Kurds in northern Iraq live in a largely autonomous area.

Some 37,000 people, mostly Kurds, died in nearly two decades of fighting between the autonomy-seeking PKK and Turkish troops

The PKK declared a cease-fire after Turkish forces captured the group’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in 1999. Ocalan was sentenced to death by a Turkish court and is the sole inmate on a Turkish prison island.

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