Attacks by the PKK, which has been fighting for a Kurdish homeland since 1984, have increased in recent months and dozens of soldiers have been killed.

   

Army figures on Saturday showed that guerrillas carried out 76 attacks with mines or other explosives in the past six months.

   

A deadly suicide bomb attack in a shopping centre in Ankara last month was also blamed on Kurdish separatists.

 

Incursion

   

Turkey's popular and powerful army has called for an incursion into northern Iraq to fight separatists based there.

   

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In a statement earlier this month, it vowed to respond to attacks as necessary and urged Turks to show a mass response to the violence.

   

Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who faces an election next month, has said he agrees with the army over northern Iraq and a cross-border operation could be launched if necessary. But he has not reconvened parliament to approve an operation.

   

Erdogan was quoted as saying on Saturday that Ankara was waiting for a response from the US, which has said it opposes any operation in relatively stable northern Iraq.

 

"We are waiting for a response from Washington. After that I will call president (George) Bush. After that, according to the result, we will decide on what steps must be taken and take action," he was quoted as saying by Vatan newspaper.