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Iraq's Kurdish parliament backs Sept 25 independence referendum

16 September 2017, 01:00 | Darnell Patrick

The Governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim during an interview with Kurdistan 24

Karim to continue as Kirkuk Governor says Iraqi Parliament’s dismissal ‘illegal

The move came after Iraq's parliament voted to remove the governor of Kirkuk, a staunch supporter of Kurdish independence.

Lawmaker Hussein al-Maliki said parliament voted to dismiss Kirkuk Gov. Najmiddin Karim based on consultations with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers voted earlier Friday to hold the referendum on September 25, in the face of bitter opposition from Baghdad and protests from neighboring Iran and Turkey, which fear it will fan separatism among their own Kurdish minorities.

The United States and other Western powers also have opposed the move, fearing it could weaken the already shaky government in Baghdad.

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.

An global delegation, including the United States, Britain and UN envoys, met with Barzani and presented the alternative path for the controversial independence referendum.

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"I will stay in office", he told Reuters. It is clear that the Iraqi authorities can maximally grant a broader autonomy to the Iraqi Kurds seeking independence.

Iraq's Kurdish region has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the USA imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War.

Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups have threatened to dislodge the Kurdish forces from the oil-rich Kirkuk region, which is due to take part in the referendum.

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan has advised his Iraqi Kurdish counterpart Massoud Barzani to back off from plans to host a referendum on Iraqi Kurdish independence.

A Foreign Ministry statement released Thursday also welcomed an Iraqi parliament vote that rejected the September 25 referendum as unconstitutional. Last spring, Kirkuk's governorate voted to raise the Kurdish flag over state buildings, despite Baghdad's insistence that only Iraq's national flag should fly in the multiethnic city. "This is a very risky process", United States envoy to the multinational coalition battling Daesh, Brett McGurk, told reporters after a delegation that included the UN and British representatives met with Barzani.



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