Source AP ©

Turkish helicopters blast Kurdish rebels near Iraq borderline

Turkish helicopters attacked Kurdish rebel targets near Iraq border. Three Turkish and six rebel soldiers were killed.

As the military pressure continued, the government called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday to discuss a National Security Council recommendation on possible economic measures against groups supporting the Kurdish rebels, private CNN-Turk and NTV television reported. State-run Anatolia news agency reported the meeting but not what would be discussed.

Turkey is reportedly considering a string of economic actions against the self-governing Kurdish administration in Iraq's north, where rebels are based. The region is heavily reliant on Turkish electricity and food imports, as well as Turkish investment in construction works.

The Turkish assault on the mountainside positions in Sirnak province began early Monday with helicopter rocket attacks. The Firat news agency, accused by the Turkish government of being a mouthpiece of the Kurdish rebels, said more than 30 Cobras were involved.

Transport helicopters then flew in commando teams and trucks later drove more troops to the area.

The fighting went late into the night, and the Cobras resumed their aerial assaults early Tuesday morning. An AP Television News cameraman saw smoke rising from Mount Cudi in the aftermath.

Three soldiers were killed in the first day of fighting, according to the private Dogan News Agency and Hurriyet newspaper, which published their names. Six rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were also killed, the private Cihan news agency reported.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the casualty reports.

One other soldier was killed Monday during operations in Tunceli province when he stepped on a land mine believed to have been hidden by the rebels, bringing the total number of people killed by the PKK in the past month to 46, according to government and media reports. Those casualties included at least 30 Turkish soldiers killed in two ambushes that were the boldest attacks in years - and were a major factor in the increasing domestic pressure on Turkey's prime minister to act.

In the latest of the regular patriotic demonstrations that have been held in cities around the country, some 600 motorcyclists held a moment of silence at an Istanbul cemetery, then drove through the city waving Turkish flags and denouncing the PKK.

The United States, Iraq, and other countries have been pressuring Turkey to refrain from a cross-border attack against the PKK.

Such a campaign could derail one of the few stable areas in Iraq, and leave the United States in an awkward position with key allies: NATO-member Turkey, the Baghdad government and the self-governing Iraqi Kurds in the north.

Turkey has threatened to attack, however, unless scores of PKK leaders are extradited from Iraq.

On Thursday and Friday, high-ranking officials are to hold talks before a foreign ministers' meeting about Iraq in Istanbul. Scheduled to attend are the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the Group of Eight industrialized nations, representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League and the European Union.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Friday. Erdogan then flies to Washington on Nov. 5 to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush for a meeting many believe will be key in determining whether Turkey carries out its threats of a cross-border incursion.

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