Baghdad and the United States have urged Ankara to show caution, and not create another military crisis in an Iraq already wracked with conflict.

"We are trying to defuse this tension," Zebari said.

"We think the best thing is to revive the security working group [and address] all legitimate Turkish concerns about the PKK, the security issue and cross-border incursions."

Resources stretched

Zebari repeated that Iraq would see any Turkish military operation on its soil as an unwelcome violation of sovereignty, and insisted that it was not opposed to taking action against the PKK at the proper time.

The foreign minister also said that Iraq's armed forces are fighting on the streets of Baghdad and had no manpower to spare for a campaign against Kurdish rebels in the northern mountains.

Turkey has been asked to take part in talks with Iraq and the United States to discuss the issue.

However, Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, said in June that his government had finalised a battle plan for an incursion into Iraq to pursue the PKK and that the military was waiting for the green light.