updated 10/27/2007 12:50:49 PM ET 2007-10-27T16:50:49

Turkey’s top military commander promised Saturday to make Iraq-based Kurdish rebels “grieve with an intensity that they cannot imagine,” while the prime minister said his nation would fight “when needed,” regardless of international pressure.

The military chief, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, said Friday that Turkey would wait until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Bush in Washington on Nov. 5 before deciding on any cross-border offensive.

But Erdogan said his country could not be pinned down by dates in deciding whether to attack.

“We can’t say when or how we will do it, we will just do it,” he said.

Clashes between government forces and guerrilla fighters have been escalating since the rebels broke a cease-fire in 2004. Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, fighters have killed at least 42 people in the past month. Those casualties included some 30 Turkish soldiers in two ambushes that were the boldest attacks in years.

“We are determined to make those who cause this sadness grieve with an intensity that they cannot imagine,” Buyukanit said.

The bellicose comments come amid an increasing nationalist fervor in Turkey, with the country’s red flag with white crescent and star—and images of modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk—draped over scores of balconies, displayed in the backs of cars, and sold by vendors walking the streets.

Thousands took to the streets of several Turkish cities, condemning the PKK and pushing for action.

Some 1,000 people chanted “down with the U.S.A., down with the PKK” outside the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and said they were ready to fight the Kurdish rebels, yelling “we’re all soldiers.”

Hundreds more people marched in Istanbul, while another 1,500 —mostly children — took to the streets of the predominantly Kurdish city of Sirnak, in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi border.

Military helicopters shuttled more troops in to the mountains near Iraq, while patrols secured roads and checkpoints.

‘We will end the issue’
In a show-of-force exercise about 20 miles from the border, near the village of Ikizce, a group of Turkish tanks fired 10 rounds into the mountains toward Iraq.

Elsewhere, Turkish forces shelled two Iraqi areas along the western portion of the 205-mile border, Iraqi border guard officer Col. Hussein Tamr said.

Meanwhile, the PKK indicated it was considering the release of eight Turkish soldiers it captured in an operation on Oct. 21 in response to calls by a lawmaker.

Ahmet Turk, a Kurdish member of Turkey’s Parliament, called Wednesday for the soldiers to be released unharmed.

Speaking in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah, PKK spokesman Abdul-Rahman Al-Chaderchi said the group was working on a response.

“Within a short time we will end the issue of the captives,” Al-Chaderchi told The Associated Press.

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

But talks between Iraqi and Turkish official on Friday failed to produce any breakthroughs and the Iraqi delegation returned home on Saturday.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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