President Abdullah Gul warned the PKK on Thursday that Turkey's patience was running out after Turkish forces said they repelled a Kurdish attack near the Iraqi border.
Ankara has massed as many as 100,000 soldiers along the mountainous border ahead of a possible cross-border operation to crush some 3,000 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who use northern Iraq as a launchpad for attacks on Turkey.
"We are totally determined to take all necessary steps to end this threat... Iraq should not be a source of threat for its neighbours," Gul told an economic conference in Ankara. "Although we respect the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq, Turkey is running out of patience and will not tolerate the use of Iraqi soil for the purpose of terrorist activities."
The United States wants to avert a major Turkish offensive in northern Iraq, fearing it would destabilize not only the most peaceful part of that country but potentially the wider region. "(The United States) may not want us to carry out a cross-border operation. But it is we who will decide whether to do one or not," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told reporters, according to Reuters.
Turkish tanks and artillery helped beat off an attack by up to 40 PKK fighters late on Wednesday on a military post in Hakkari province near the border, security officials told Reuters. After heavy clashes, the guerrillas withdrew into northern Iraq and took with them an unknown number of dead and wounded, the officials said. One Turkish soldier was wounded.