Iraq said on Saturday it was ready to track down and arrest Kurdish guerrilla leaders responsible for cross-border raids into Turkey in an effort to avert a major incursion by the Turkish military.

Major powers and countries in the region, meeting in Istanbul to improve Iraqi security, are seeking to ease tensions on the Turkish-Iraqi border that could escalate into a bigger regional crisis.

Turkey wants PKK leaders arrested and seeks the closure of camps in northern Iraq which are increasingly being used as bases to attack targets in Turkey as part of a 23-year-old campaign by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to carve out a homeland in southeast Turkey.

They will be arrested and any threat to Iraq will be treated by Iraqi law, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told reporters in Istanbul.

Dabbagh told Reuters Baghdad did not rule out joint military action with Ankara, but Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said after talks with his Turkish and U.S. counterparts: I think there is a whole number of measures to be taken before getting to that.

Turkey is growing increasingly impatient at what it sees as U.S. and Iraqi foot-dragging over the threat from the PKK and has massed up to 100,000 troops on the border for a possible offensive against about 3,000 rebels using Iraq as a base.

The government in Baghdad has little influence over the autonomous Kurdish regions in the north and the success of any measures against PKK militants would depend on the cooperation of Kurdish authorities.

Terrorists should not use Iraqi land to attack innocent people in other countries, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said earlier.

He promised urgent measures against the PKK and repeated an earlier pledge to shut the offices of the rebels.

In northern Iraq, a Kurdish official said the regional government had shut down the offices of a political party which sympathizes with the PKK, the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party.


The so-called neighbors' conference, hosted by Turkey, was meant to focus on improving security in Iraq but has been overshadowed by the fall-out from PKK guerrilla attacks launched from Iraq and concerns for regional stability.

Our objective is to have an Iraq that has stability and safety and that does not create threats for its neighbors, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the opening session.

But Erdogan's government has come under tremendous pressure to act after dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed in PKK attacks in recent weeks.

Several thousands protested in the capital Ankara on Saturday, the latest in a series of demonstrations.

It is clearly unacceptable that Iraq's territory is used to mount cross border attacks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting of dozens of foreign ministers, held in an Ottoman place on the banks of the Bosphorus.

He also urged Iraq's neighbors to do more to help stabilize the country, which sits on the world's third-largest proven crude oil reserves, and said recent incidents on the Turkish-Iraqi border showed the need for close cooperation.

Rice has promised more action from the United States but provided scant details on how far Washington was prepared to go except to offer improved intelligence-sharing on the PKK.

No major announcements are expected during Rice's visit, or at the conference, partly because she does not want to upstage a meeting on Monday in Washington between Erdogan and President George W. Bush.

Turkish diplomats said a declaration after Saturday's meeting of ministers from major western powers and the region was likely to include condemnation of all terrorism and applaud bilateral arrangements between Iraq and its neighbors.

The United States supports limited strikes by Turkey on PKK training sites but opposes any large-scale invasion. The U.S. military is reluctant to conduct any joint activities with the Turks in what is Iraq's most stable area.

(Additional reporting by Evren Mesci, Gareth Jones, Emma Ross-Thomas and Daren Butler in Istanbul)