Turk PM confirms plan to allow operation in Iraq

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ANKARA, Oct 10 (Reuters) Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan confirmed today his government was drawing up plans to authorise a military incursion into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels using the region as a base.

''(Preparations on the proposal) have started and are continuing,'' Erdogan told reporters in answer to a question as he arrived at parliament.

Parliament would have to grant its permission to troops to cross the border into Iraq. Passing the measure would not automatically mean Turkish troops going into northern Iraq.

Political analysts say a major military operation remains unlikely, given opposition from the United States, Turkey's NATO ally, but Erdogan is under pressure to act tough after a series of deadly rebel attacks on Turkish security forces.

Foreign Ministry officials said today the prime minister's office had not yet sent any instructions to them to draw up a proposal authorising cross-border military action.

With Turkey about to start a major religious holiday marking the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan, some newspapers said the proposal may not be sent to parliament until next week.

yesterday, Erdogan said all measures, including military ones, would be considered in the fight against rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Some 3,000 PKK members are believed to be holed up in mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

Erdogan and the army know large-scale incursions into northern Iraq in 1995 and 1997, involving an estimated 35,000 and 50,000 troops respectively, failed to dislodge the rebels.

A major incursion would strain Turkey's ties with both the United States and the European Union, which Ankara hopes to join, and could undermine regional stability.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984. Fifteen soldiers have been killed in PKK attacks since Sunday.

REUTERS PD PM1642

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