A top Turkish general is denying a published report that Turkey has drawn up plans to invade northern Iraq to prevent the northern oil city of Kirkuk from falling into Kurdish hands.

In Ankara, General Ilker Basbug said a Turkish newspaper report on a plan to move on Kirkuk does not "correspond to reality."

The general spoke one day after the Milliyet daily said the general staff has a plan to send 40,000 troops into northern Iraq within 18 hours, if ordered to do so.

The paper said the plan had U.S. backing, but the general also denied any agreement had been reached with Washington.

Turkey has said it will act to prevent Iraqi Kurds from turning Kirkuk into the capital of a Kurdish state. Authorities say they fear such a move could inflame separatist sentiments in southeastern Turkey.