Turkey's parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a possible cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, although the government appears willing to give more time to diplomatic pressure on the U.S.-backed Iraqi administration.
Parliament voted 507-19 in favor of empowering the government to order the military to cross into Iraq over a one-year period, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan said. Legislators burst into applause.
In Washington, President Bush said the United States was making clear to Turkey it should not send massive number of troops into Iraq.
Turkish leaders have stressed that an offensive against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, would not immediately follow the expected authorization.
"The passage of the motion in parliament does not mean that an operation will be carried out at once," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday. "Turkey will act with common sense and determination when necessary and when the time is ripe."
Hours before the vote, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called his Turkish counterpart to say that his government was determined to halt the "terrorist activities" of the PKK on Iraqi territory, and he emphasized the need for the two nations to continue to talk, his office said in a statement.
Iraq has urged Turkey not to send troops across the border to pursue separatist Kurds in mountain hideouts. It dispatched one of its two vice presidents to Ankara on Tuesday and called for a diplomatic solution to tensions that have raised fears of a new front in the Iraq war.
"Iraq must be given the chance to stop PKK rebels who cross the border before Turkey takes any step," the Anatolia news agency quoted Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi as saying.
"I got what I wanted from our talks. There is a new atmosphere to stop the current crisis," he was also quoted as saying. Al-Hashimi met Tuesday with Erdogan and other Turkish officials.
Hours before the vote in parliament, Turkey invited ambassadors from countries bordering Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations to the Foreign Ministry for a briefing on why it was passing the motion in parliament.
The motion, authorizing an attack into Iraq sometime over the next year, had the backing of all but one party in parliament. Only a small Kurdish party voted against it.
Public anger over attacks by Kurdish guerrillas is high but Turkish officials are mindful that two dozen Iraqi campaigns since the 1980s have failed to eradicate the PKK. A cross-border attack into northern Iraq could also strain ties with the United States, a NATO ally that opposes any disruption of its efforts to stabilize Iraq.
Kurdish rebels from the PKK have been fighting since 1984 for autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Turkey has complained about what it considers a lack of U.S. support in the fight against the PKK, a frustration with Washington intensified because of another sensitive issue: the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.
A panel in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution last week labeling the killings genocide, an affront to Turks who deny there was any systematic campaign to eliminate Armenians.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday the prospects of a vote on the genocide bill in the full House were uncertain.
Her statement came after several membersfor the resolution out of fear that it would cripple U.S. relations with Turkey.
Another prominent Democrat also predicted the resolution would fail in the House. Congressman John Murtha says his party's leadership underestimated opposition to the resolution.
In other developments: