Kurd rebels say open to dialogue on giving up arms

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TUNCELI, Turkey, Nov 9 (Reuters) The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group, which Turkey has threatened an incursion into Iraq to fight, said today it was open to dialogue that could lead to its downing arms, a news agency close to the rebels reported.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said this week after talks with U.S. President George W. Bush that the army would go ahead with an incursion against the PKK militants in Iraq.

Turkey, like the United States and European Union, condemns the PKK as a terrorist group and has always refused any dialogue with the guerrillas.

''We are open to dialogue on starting a process that would totally exclude weapons based on a political project,'' said the PKK statement on the Firat news agency.

But it said unilateral ceasefires, which the guerrillas have announced in the past, have failed to halt the conflict.

Turkey has stationed some 100,000 troops on the border with Iraq, and if nothing is done to curb the PKK's activities it has pledged to launch an offensive against some 3,000 rebels who use northern Iraq as a base for attacks in Turkey.

The PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Despite Erdogan's vow that there will be an operation, Iraq's foreign minister said this week he believed the threat of a major Turkish offensive had diminished.

Washington is against Turkey sending thousands of troops across the border, fearing it could destabilise northern Iraq and cause a bigger regional crisis. It has not opposed limited military strikes.

REUTERS YA RAI2104

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