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Turkey paves way for broadcasting in Kurdish

Turkey bolstered its case for beginning accession talks with the European Union on Tuesday when its media regulator said it would permit limited television and radio broadcasts in Kurdish, reversing an 80-year ban.

ANKARA (AA) - Brussels has praised Ankara for passing a swathe of rights reforms in recent months, but says the EU candidate must implement the measures before it can begin membership talks.

Private radio stations may apply to broadcast in Kurdish for five hours a week and TV channels for four hours weekly once the Supreme Board of Radio and Television\'s (RTUK) decision is published in the official gazette, RTUK head Fatih Karaca said.

\"The board decided that these kind of broadcasts will be carried out by private and public radio and television,\" he told reporters. RTUK has handed its decision to the prime ministry for approval, he added.

Ankara has not allowed broadcasting in Kurdish and other minority languages since the Turkish republic was formed in 1923 because of fears expanded language rights might provoke division and discord among Turkey\'s population of some 70 million.

Initially only nationwide TV and radio stations will be allowed to broadcast in Kurdish.

The EU and international human rights organisations have criticised Turkey for its treatment of its 12 million-strong Kurdish minority. Ankara has also pledged to allow private education in Kurdish but courses have yet to start.

Turkey hopes the EU will approve its application to begin accession talks at a summit in December 2004.

Ankara must also stamp out torture and push for a solution on the divided island of Cyprus before negotiations can begin with the European bloc.

Turkey has fought a decades-long war against Kurdish militants at the cost of over 30,000 lives, most of them Kurds, but the fighting has largely subsided since the 1999 capture and imprisonment of rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

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