Ankara debates crackdown on Kurds

ANKARA - A special session of the Turkish parliament was debating yesterday whether to adopt a package of security measures proposed by the Prime Minister, Suleyman Demirel, to tackle the critical situation in the south-east of the country, where some 12,000 Kurdish rebels fighting for independence are holding down Nato's second largest army.

No details of the measures were released before the session, but Mr Demirel has hinted recently that army intervention in northern Iraq to hit rear bases of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party was not being ruled out. He has also pointed out that Turkey's constitution provides for martial law - which was in place for seven years until 1987 - and for the use of legitimate force to crush the rebellion.

About 150,000 troops - a third of the Turkish army's strength - have been put into the troubled region, which borders Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The politicians have been forced into action by continuing violence at Sirnak, the south-eastern Turkish provincial capital. where a rebel offensive and government counter-attack have reportedly left 26 dead in the past week. Almost all the 25,000 ethnic Kurds who live in Sarnak have abandoned the city for fear of their lives.

Additional pressure has come from growing hostility among Turks to all things Kurdish, with alarmist editorials in the Turkish press warning that any further delay in settling the Kurdish problem could mean civil war.

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