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Turkey offers amnesty to Kurds who seized heavy Iraqi weapons

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Sunday, June 29, 2003

ANKARA Turkey has launched an initiative to reconcile with up to 5,000 members of the Kurdish Workers Party in northern Iraq.

The government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has drafted legislation that would grant amnesty to Kurdish insurgents. The bill would offer pardons or reduction of prison sentences to Kurds who surrender their weapons to Turkish authorities.

The United States has urged Turkey to offer the amnesty to avoid a military operation against the PKK insurgents, said to be equipped with heavy weapons stolen from the arsenals of the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

The amnesty offer was announced after a meeting of Turkey's National Security Council on Friday, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the council has been divided between those who seek Turkish intervention in northern Iraq and those who urge restraint in the area.

Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said the legislation would offer pardons to insurgents who merely belong to the PKK, banned by Ankara. Those who were convicted or accused of attacks on Turks would see a significant reduction of their sentences if they cooperate with authorities.

"This is a new and very serious step by the government to establish social peace," Aksu said.

Aksu said senior PKK commanders would not benefit from the legislation.

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