Soldier killed in SE Turkey, govt under pressure

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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Oct 8 (Reuters) A Turkish soldier was killed and three more were wounded in a landmine explosion today, putting further pressure on Turkey's government just one day after Kurdish rebels shot dead 13 Turkish troops.

The increased attacks on security personnel in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey have reignited talk of a major Turkish military incursion into neighbouring northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels who use the region as a base.

Today's blast occurred in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province, security sources who declined to be named said. The dead man was a non-commissioned officer.

Remotely-controlled landmines are a favoured weapon of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), whose attacks Turkish media say have claimed nearly 100 lives this year alone.

''A cross-border operation (into Iraq) is on the table,'' said the top-selling Hurriyet daily following Sunday's incident, the worst in years, in Sirnak province near the Iraqi border.

Turkey's powerful armed forces have long called for a cross-border operation, but Washington fears such a move could destabilise Kurdish northern Iraq, the only relatively stable part of that country. Turkey is a key NATO ally of Washington.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on Sunday evening, said his government would press the fight against Kurdish rebels ''in a very different way'', hinting that it might now send troops into Iraq to crush an estimated 3,000 PKK rebels based there.

Erdogan said the government's anti-terrorism panel would meet on Monday to assess the latest events. ''We will take certain steps based on the outcome of that meeting,'' he said.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group began its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

Reuters ARB VP1248

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