ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey's military warned the prime minister Friday that it will continue fighting Islamic fundamentalism.

The strongly worded statement was a harsh response to Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who has expressed uneasiness over the military's recent crackdown on Muslim fundamentalists.

``The Turkish Armed Forces see the protection of the secular, democratic ... republic (as being) above all political concerns,'' the military said in a statement released after a meeting of the country's top generals.

``The armed forces will carry out duties given to it by the constitution and laws as before,'' it said.

Turkish law empowers the army to defend the country's constitutionally guaranteed secular principles and defend it against domestic as well as foreign threats.

Yilmaz, responding afterward, said the military exercised its democratic rights by issuing the statement, but he added that he would allow no one to share his constitutional powers as leader of the country. The responsibility to fight against Islamic fundamentalism fell on his government, he said.

``None of our commanders are more sensitive against Islamic fundamentalism than me,'' Yilmaz said during a live interview on private ATV television. ``But we have differences over the tactics.''

He said his government did not want to disturb ``faithful people'' for the sake of fighting fundamentalism.

Yilmaz also opposes a strict military-backed ban on Islamic-style headscarves in universities. The government backed down earlier this month from a decision to enforce a controversial ban on headscarves in public high schools. For the military, the headscarves are a political symbol.

Yilmaz apparently wants to appeal to religious voters because opposition parties are pressing for early elections.

Yilmaz replaced an Islamic-led government, which the military had forced to resign.