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Kurdish Workers Party fighters seek haven in Syria

Special to World Tribune.com
MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

ANKARA Kurdish insurgents appear to be seeking safe haven in Syria.

Insurgents from the Kurdish Workers Party, or Kadek, have been moving towad the Syrian border amid Turkish pressure on the United States to disarm them. The PKK waged a 15-year insurgency war against Turkey that ended in 1999 and has been bolstered by the capture of weapons from the arsenal of the former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Western diplomatic sources said about 500 PKK members have deployed along the Syrian border. They said the PKK has been sending messages to the regime of President Bashar Assad for safe haven.

Under heavy Turkish pressure, Syria expelled PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1998. But the PKK maintained a presence in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi and Turkish borders.

About 300 of the PKK fighters are said to be in the Yashar camp along the Syrian border. The other 200 are said to be nearby. The sources said up to 400 PKK fighters are trying to cross into Turkey.

Turkey has pressed the United States to disarm the PKK in northern Iraq. Turkey has maintained a small force in the area, but its movements have been restricted by U.S.-led coalition forces.

The sources said the United States is considering granting PKK insurgents Iraqi nationality in return for the surrender of their weapons.

Ankara is concerned that the PKK will again.use northern Iraq as a base for insurgency attacks in southern Turkey.

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