Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his government is drawing up plans to authorise a military incursion into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels there if this is deemed necessary.

The parliament would have to grant permission to troops to cross the border into Iraq and passing the measure would not automatically mean Turkish troops going into Iraq.

It is thought that a major military operation remains unlikely, given the opposition of the US, Turkey's NATO ally.

But Mr Erdogan is under pressure to act tough after a series of attacks on Turkish security forces. 15 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the past week.

Yesterday, Mr Erdogan said all measures, including military ones, would be considered in the fight against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Some 3,000 PKK members are believed to be holed up in mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

However, the Prime Minister is wary of the fact that large-scale incursions into northern Iraq in 1995 and 1997, involving an estimated 35,000 and 50,000 troops respectively, failed to dislodge the rebels.

And a major incursion would strain Turkey's ties with both the US and the EU, which Ankara hopes to join, and could undermine regional stability.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.