USA urges Iraqi Kurdish leader to call off statehood referendum

Supporters of the

Voters will face one question, asked in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkmen, and Assyrian: "Do you want the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and Kurdistani territories that are outside KRI to become an independent state?"

Seventy-three members of the 111-strong parliament attended the session, which started with the national anthem, Kurdish news portal Rudaw reported.

The opposition Gorran movement boycotted Friday's parliamentary session, the first since a dispute between them and Barzani's KDP caused the suspension of the assembly in October 2015.

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.

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.

The governor of Kirkuk was sacked by the federal parliament earlier this week over his support for a referendum.

Moves toward independence are strongly opposed by Baghdad.

However, Kurdish officials say they will use it to pressure the Iraqi government in Baghdad to come to the negotiating table and formalize their independence bid.

In late 1980s, forces of Iraq's then autocrat Saddam Hussein unleashed several attacks on Kurdish areas, including with chemical weapons.

Under this plan, a well-placed source told AFP, the global community will oversee negotiations on revenue sharing in Iraq's oil budget and payment for Kurdish militia fighters.

Brett McGurk, U.S. special presidential envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition calling on Kurdish leaders in Iraq to halt the referendum in favor of an alternative.

The White House issued a statement hours after the vote, asking the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad. "However, it seems that Masoud Barzani is highly determined", the analyst said.

On Friday, however, Mr Barzani dismissed alternatives offered by the USA to avert the referendum. "25", he said, adding the Kurdistan Parliament had confirmed the referendum date.

Borders and military forces would remain in their current positions, and Baghdad would authorize Kurdistan to continue exporting the oil that it now ships through Turkey in breach of the federal constitution.

"We refuse to be their servants", he told cheering independence supporters.

Barzani criticized those claiming that referendum does not have legitimacy, saying "the referendum's legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan".

It is also concerned that the scheduled referendum comprises disputed areas such has Kirkuk, which is home to Turkmen, Arabs, Kurds and Christians.



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