Kurdish rebel killed in clash with Turkish troops

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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Nov 24 (Reuters) A Kurdish guerrilla was killed and a Turkish soldier wounded today during a clash in Turkey's mountainous Sirnak province near the Iraqi border, security forces said.

It was the first reported clash between rebels and security forces in southeast Turkey in more than a week.

Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed up by tanks, artillery and warplanes, near the border in preparation for a possible incursion to crush rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who use northern Iraq as a base.

But officials say a major cross-border incursion is less likely after the United States promised to provide more intelligence to Turkey on the rebels inside Iraq and after Iraqi Kurdish authorities also took measures against the PKK.

Today Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said democracy was the best weapon to combat terrorism when he addressed members of his ruling AK Party at a gathering in a thermal resort near the capital Ankara.

Erdogan repeated his demand that the PKK lay down its arms but also reiterated Turkey's continued willingness to send troops into northern Iraq against the rebels if this were deemed necessary.

Erdogan has vowed to improve economic and social conditions in Turkey's impoverished, mainly Kurdish southeast, though his government has not yet given any details of how it will do this.

About 10,000 people staged a protest march today against the PKK and in support of Turkey's armed forces in Turkey's mainly Kurdish border province of Hakkari.

They carried placards reading ''Turks and Kurds are brothers'' and ''Martyrs do not die, the motherland will not be broken up''.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984. The United States and European Union, like Turkey, consider it a terrorist group.

REUTERS JT RAI2130

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