Turkish PM hopes Iraq incursion won't be needed

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ANKARA, Oct 16 (Reuters) Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said today that securing parliament's permission to launch a major attack on Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq did not necessarily mean a military incursion was imminent.

''I sincerely wish that this motion will never be applied.

Passage of this motion does not mean an immediate incursion will follow, but we will act at the right time and under the right conditions,'' Erdogan told his AK Party in televised remarks.

''The sole target of a possible incursion is the terrorist organisation,'' he said, referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whose members use northern Iraq as a base from which to attack Turkey.

Faced with an escalation in separatist violence, Turkey's cabinet asked parliament yesterday for permission to launch cross-border offensives.

Parliament will debate the motion tomorrow. It is expected to pass easily given the ruling AK Party's large majority and strong support for military action from the main opposition parties.

Ankara has long complained that the United States has not done enough on its own or through the Iraqi government to crack down on some 3,000 PKK rebels based in northern Iraq.

Iraq has urged Turkey not to resort to military action on its territory, calling on it to be ''wise and patient''.

Iraqi Deputy President Tareq al-Hashemi was due in Ankara today for talks.

Washington has also urged restraint on Turkey, a key NATO ally strategically located at the meeting point of Europe and the West Asia.

The prospect of NATO's second largest army crossing into mainly Kurdish northern Iraq helped to propel global oil prices towards a fresh all-time high of 88 dollars a barrel today.

The Turkish lira was down almost two per cent against the dollar.

Washington relies heavily on Turkey for logistical support for its operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Turkey 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.

REUTERS GL BD1546

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