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Iraq's Kurdish leader vows to conduct independence referendum

Iraq's Kurdish leader vows to conduct independence referendum”

The United States has proposed unspecified "alternatives" to the vote, to which Barzani has pledged to give a rapid response.

Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Thursday in a press briefing that Turkey has good relations with both Baghdad and Arbil but a referendum would have "consequences".

"The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government's intention to hold a referendum later this month", the White House said in a statement on Friday.

It also called on the regional government "to seize this opportunity and to enter into serious negotiations with Baghdad".

"The meeting will discuss the referendum of the Kurdistan region, which will be on 25 September, and will respond to the decision made earlier by the Iraqi parliament, which rejected this referendum", said Tariq Jowhar, media advisor of the Parliament, said on Friday.

"We still haven't heard a proposal that can be an alternative to the Kurdistan referendum", Barzani told a rally in the Kurdish region, referring to a proposal put forward by the United States and other Western envoys this week.

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Oil-rich Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians.

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

Ankara, which has warned the referendum would come at a "cost", has close economic and political relations with the KRG and Barzani.

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. The party is for independence at the right time, but says the Kurdistan region should first put its domestic house in order and pass reforms before striving for independence.

In recent years, there have been tensions between Baghdad and Kurdistan over power-sharing, oil revenues and territorial disputes.

The planned referendum has also alarmed Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - that are anxious it will encourage their Kurdish minorities to splinter off. It is clear that the Iraqi authorities can maximally grant a broader autonomy to the Iraqi Kurds seeking independence.



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