Kurdish rebels reject calls to lay down arms; say Turkey must take democratic steps first

Kurdish rebels have rejected a call for them to lay down their arms, saying Turkey's government must first take steps to advance democracy and withdraw a controversial security bill being debated in Parliament.

The rebel statement Sunday on the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency came in response to a call by imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan asking his Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to convene a congress in the spring to decide to end its armed struggle.

The rebel group said it had already implemented a cease-fire as part of the efforts to end the 30-year bloody insurgency. It said the Turkish government must show its "sincerity" by abandoning the bill that would increase police powers.

The Kurdish insurgency has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people since 1984.