Russia pulled into fray over Kurdish leader's fateNovember 29, 1998
Web posted at: 10:42 p.m. EST (0342 GMT)
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Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini's visit was scheduled before Abdullah Ocalan was arrested in Rome when he arrived on a flight from Moscow, but the Ocalan matter is expected to dominate his talks Monday with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Dini told La Stampa newspaper that he hoped to find out about the events leading up to Ocalan's journey to Rome and "above all what was the Russian position on his decision to come to Italy."
An Italian lawmaker revealed last week that he had gone to Moscow to accompany Ocalan to Rome. He said Russian officials met him at the airport and took him to the rebel leader, who flew to Italy on a false passport later in the day.
Ocalan has applied for political asylum in Italy, but Italian Premier >Massimo D'Alema suggested Italy might instead expel the rebel leader and send him back to Russia.
Turkey rejects European resolution
Turkey's caretaker prime minister, Mesut Yilmaz, has rejected German and Italian plans for a European bid to end the conflict between Turkish forces and guerrillas loyal to Ocalan.
Germany also wants to prosecute Ocalan, but it won't extradite him because it fears problems with its Turkish and Kurdish immigrant population.
"If the problem at issue here is the one between Turkey and its citizens of Kurdish origin, then the only place for a solution is Turkey," the Anatolian news agency quoted Yilmaz as saying late Saturday.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Italy's Dini agreed over the weekend to launch a European initiative to seek a "peaceful solution in southeast Turkey," where the fighting is centered.
PKK downed helicopter
The declaration came amid international wrangling over the fate of Ocalan, now under house arrest in Italy. His Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has fought Turkish forces for 14 years in a conflict in which more than 29,000 people have died.
Turkey's general staff on Sunday confirmed a PKK claim that it shot down a Turkish army helicopter in the southeast, killing 16 troops, Anatolian reported.
It cited a general staff statement saying the Sikorsky helicopter crashed after "light arms fire from terrorists struck the pilot." The PKK claimed responsibility Saturday for downing the aircraft.
The armed forces had said earlier it was investigating the cause of the Friday crash. PKK rebels brought down two Turkish military helicopters in northern Iraq last year using Russian-made missiles.
'Baby-killer must be brought to justice'
Yilmaz also attacked Germany and Italy for their failure to try Ocalan, whom Turkey considers a terrorist and charges with personal responsibility for the deaths in the conflict.
"Italy did not have the courage to try this person under its laws, nor did Germany," he said. Ocalan was arrested in Italy earlier this month. At present he is under police protection in a Rome villa.
Rome rejected a demand for Ocalan to be extradited to Turkey because Italian law bars sending suspects to a country where they could face the death penalty. The refusal has put a severe strain on relations between the two countries. Turkey has the death penalty but has not used it since the 1980s.
Germany also has refused to act on an arrest warrant for Ocalan, fearing reprisals by PKK militants and unrest among some 2.7 million Turks and Kurds in Germany.
Germany and Italy have pledged to ensure that Ocalan faces trial but have not said where it might take place.
Turkish public anger with Italy was demonstrated by thousands of minibus drivers who toured the streets of Ankara in a convoy on Sunday, sounding horns and carrying banners reading, "The baby-killer must be brought to justice."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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