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Iraq's Kurdish leader vows to conduct independence referendum

16 September 2017
Iraq's Kurdish leader vows to conduct independence referendum

We call on our Kurdish brothers to permanently postpone the referendum decision, Iraqi Turkmen Front Leader Ershad Salihi said Friday.

But hours later at a pro-referendum rally in Zakho, Barzani told those gathered that they would vote on September 25 as planned, according to local media.

Barzani's statements came after the U.S. Special Envoy for the Coalition against Daesh Brett McGurk urged northern Iraq's KRG to halt its upcoming independence referendum, suggesting that there is an alternative.

Despite all the obstacles, Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan region in Iraq, is determined to hold a referendum on independence, an Armenian political analyst said on Friday.

The planned vote has faced strong opposition from the federal government in Baghdad as well as neighbouring Iran and Turkey, which fear it will stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizeable Kurdish minorities.

No alternative that can replace the independence referendum has been offered, KRG President Masoud Barzani said, and refused to postpone the independence referendum, one day after the USA, United Nations and the U.K. presented what they called an "alternative" in an effort to convince Irbil to postpone the vote.

"We've been waiting more than 100 years for this", Omed Khoshnaw, a lawmaker from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDR) of KRG President Massoud Barzani, told Reuters.

Western officials have once again pressed on Kurdish leaders to cancel the 25 September independence referendum by threatening not to grant global legitimacy to the elections.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said later in a statement it condemned the attack.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, during a visit to Iraq last month, encouraged the regional government and Baghdad to use dialogue to resolve their issues, and he asked all sides to "keep the focus on maintaining the momentum against [IS]". They fear increased tensions between Baghdad and Erbil will distract from the war on Islamic State militants who still occupy parts of Iraq and Syria.

The disputed territories, which also will participate in September's referendum, are large swaths of land in northern Iraq, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Iraq's central government has rejected the polls as unconstitutional and illegal.