PKK head offers arms for rights

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IN HIS most impressive offer yet, Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader, said yesterday his guerrillas were prepared to hand over their arms in return for Kurdish rights.

From a cell on a Turkish prison island, under sentence of death, Mr Ocalan is trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He is trying to redefine his Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as a political organisation. Last week, at his bidding, the guerrillas renounced violence and on Monday they said they would transform themselves into a political party, withdrawing from Turkey by 1 September. Now Mr Ocalan has gone even further. "We are ready to collect and hand in our arms," he said yesterday.

Ocalan has stolen Turkey's thunder with his dramatic jail statements. Ankara is under attack from all sides. Even the US, its staunchest ally, has called on the Turkish government to grant the Kurds minority rights.