|The coffin of Vedat Kutluca, who was killed by Kurdish rebels, is carried by gendarmes [AFP]|
Iraq has said it will shut down the operations of Kurdish separatists based in the country in a move aimed at heading off a threatened incursion by Turkish troops.
"The PKK [Kurdistan Workers' party] is a terrorist organisation and we have taken a decision to shut down their offices and not allow them to operate on Iraqi soil," Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, said.
"We will also work on limiting their terrorist activities which are threatening Iraq and Turkey," he said after crisis talks in Baghdad on Tuesday with Ali Babacan, the Turkish foreign minister.
But he gave no details on how the rebels could be prevented from launching attacks from their remote mountain bases.
Turkey has deployed an estimated 100,000 troops near the border with Iraq after parliament-granted approval to possible incursions into its neighbour's territory to pursue PKK fighters there.
Al-Maliki's comments came as the funerals of 12 soldiers killed by the separatists last week provoked huge protests across Turkey against the PKK.
The soldiers were killed during an ambush on Sunday on a military patrol near the village of Daglica on the Iraqi border, which also left eight soldiers missing.
A pro-Kurdish news agency close to the PKK published what it said were pictures of the eight soldiers said to be held hostage.
"The pictures show that the soldiers are in quite good health," the Firat news agency, based in western Europe, said on its website, next to 11 pictures of the soldiers by themselves and in groups.
Images of the eight soldiers were later broadcast on a Kurdish television channel.
Tens of thousands of Turks took to the streets across the country on Tuesday to protest against PKK violence as 12 soldiers, killed in an attack at the weekend, were laid to rest.
The funerals turned into seas of red and white as crowds of mourners marched waving the national flag.
"Hang Apo," demonstrators chanted in the town of Keksin, referring to the nickname of the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan.
A procession of about 7,000 people, about a fifth of the town's population, marched behind the casket of one of the dead soldiers.
Traffic was at a standstill in centre of the northwest city of Bursa as demonstrators thronged the main boulevard.
They carried huge Turkish flags and portraits of soldiers killed by the PKK in its 23-year campaign for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast.
Government and military officials attended the funeral ceremonies, held in 11 provinces across the country.
|Turkey has massed troops on the Iraqi |
border in anticipation of an incursion [AFP]
There were also demonstrations against the PKK in other cities.
As newspapers reported clashes between pro and anti-PKK students and other sporadic acts of violence, Abdullah Gul, Turkey's president, appealed for public calm and restraint.
"However great the destruction caused by terrorism, the struggle against terrorism can be waged by legal means and only by the state," he said in a statement.
The government, keen to avoid further tensions, imposed a ban on all media broadcasts concerning the deaths of the 12 soldiers, whose pictures and life stories have featured prominently in the newspapers.
RTUK, the state body that oversees television and radio in Turkey, said the ban was necessary because broadcasting news about the deaths "hurts the psychology of society and public order and creates an image of the security forces as weak".
Until the ban, television channels had led news bulletins with footage of grieving wives, mothers, fathers and children.
Earlier in Baghdad, Hoshiyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, assured his Turkish counterpart "that the Iraqi government will actively help Turkey to overcome this menace".
"I think it is pretty difficult to say troops shouldn't [invade] when the Turkish soldiers are being killed, and their villages attacked"
Celtic, Karlstad, Sweden
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"We agreed that the position we should take is a common one to fight terrorism. We will not allow any party, including the PKK, to poison our bilateral relations," Zebari said speaking at a joint news conference with Babacan in the Iraqi capital.
Zebari did not outline what form Iraqi support for Turkey would take.
"We will co-operate with the Turkish government, to solve the border problems and the terrorism that Turkey is facing through direct dialogue," he said.
Babacan said that "politics, dialogue, diplomacy, culture and economy" were the measures to deal with the current conflict.
"We do not want to sacrifice our cultural and economic relations with Iraq for the sake of a terror organisation," he said, in reference to the PKK.
However in London Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, said his country will consider trade sanctions against Iraq.
"We may impose some sanctions with respect to some goods we export to Iraq," Erdogan told an investors' conference.
He had earlier said Turkish forces were prepared for military operations against the PKK.
"Right now we are in a waiting stance but Iraq should know we can use the [parliamentary] mandate for a cross-border operation at any time," Erdogan told a joint news conference with Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister.
Brown condemned the PKK attacks on Turkish forces and said he had offered the help of Britain's counter-terrorism unit to Ankara.