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U.S. announces opposition to Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum

U.S. announces opposition to Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum

The United States has urged Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to call off a referendum on independence after lawmakers voted to approve the September 25 poll.

Iraq's parliament on Thursday voted to dismiss the Kurdish governor of the ethnically mixed Kirkuk province, in a move that could escalate tensions ahead of a planned Kurdish referendum on independence.

Hours after the decision, the White House publicly called for the first time on the KRG to cancel the referendum, warning that the vote was "distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS (Islamic State) and stabilise the liberated areas".

"We therefore call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad, which the United States has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to facilitate".

"Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing", it warned.

But Kurdish region President Masud Barzani has said the vote is necessary because "all other bids" to secure full Kurdish rights "have failed". Iraq now eyes a full liberation of its western and northern territories from Daesh.

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The referendum has been opposed by Baghdad because it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and distract the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants by Iraqi forces.

Kurds across the Kurdistan Region and overseas gathered in a show of solidarity for the historic independence vote.

"As a result, the people of Kurdistan will be given the chance to decide in a binding referendum and in a democratic process if they want independence or to remain as part of Iraq".

It was a dispute between Gorran and the KDP that caused the assembly to suspend its sessions in 2015.

The referendum has become a potential flashpoint in the region, with Western powers anxious that it could fuel a conflict with Baghdad and distract attention from the war against Daesh. Supporters of the referendum argue Kurds deserve their own state after fighting IS and facing years of oppression at the hands of governments in Baghdad, including gassing and ethnic cleansing under former dictator Saddam Hussein.


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