"The two sides in this war would be Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq. There are some 20 million Kurds in Turkey, and the 20 million Kurds would regard such a war as an attack against them," newspapers quoted Aydogdu as saying.

 

"Any attack on Kirkuk would be considered an attack on Diyarbakir," the politician was also quoted as saying.

 

Independence move

 

Turkish leaders remain concerned that Iraq's Kurds want Kirkuk to be incorporated in their semi-autonomous region in the north of the country.

 

"Kirkuk is the problem of Iraq's Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, and it is for them to find a solution according to their own internal [political] dynamics"

Hilmi Aydogdu, Democratic Society Party member

Turkey also fears that Kirkuk's oil revenues could be used to fund a bid for wider Kurdish independence that could encourage separatist Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey.

 

Kurdish guerrillas have been fighting for autonomy since 1984, in a conflict has so far claimed the lives of 37,000 people.

 

In a statement issued before his arrest, Aydogdu said he stood by his previous comments.

 

"Of course if there is any kind of intervention in Kirkuk or in northern Iraq this would cause Turkey to suffer very serious events and developments," Aydogdu said.

 

"Kirkuk is the problem of Iraq's Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, and it is for them to find a solution according to their own internal [political] dynamics," he said.

 

Turkey has not ruled out military incursions into Iraq to hunt separatist Kurds despite warnings from the US, which fears that such moves could lead to tensions with Iraqi Kurdish groups allied with Washington.

 

Turkish authorities frequently accuse the Democratic Society Party of having links to a Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

 

The US and European Union consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation.