Published: Sat, September 16, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Iraq's Kurdish parliament backs Sept 25 independence referendum

Iraq's Kurdish parliament backs Sept 25 independence referendum

Slated for September 25, the non-binding referendum will see residents of northern Iraq's Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare formal independence from Baghdad.

On Thursday, the Kurdish regional government said it had received an alternative plan for the referendum on independence in Kurdistan on September 25. Kurdish leaders have come under increasing pressure from key ally the United States, as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran, to call off the vote fearing it could plunge the region into greater instability as the fight against the Islamic State group grinds to a close. Late last month, Kirkuk's provincial council voted to take part in the referendum.

While providing no details on the alternative, Brett McGurk, U.S. special presidential envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition said at a news conference in Irbil he had presented it to Kurdish leaders.

The prime minister said he is expecting to see new developments regarding the issue after the U.N.'s possible involvement. It is clear that the Iraqi authorities can maximally grant a broader autonomy to the Iraqi Kurds seeking independence.

Turkey has the region's largest Kurdish population and fears a "Yes" vote could fuel separatism in its southeast, where Kurdish militants have waged an insurgency for three decades in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

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

Shortly after the session, the Kirkuk governor rejected the parliament decision in a statement, describing it as "invalid" and insisting that he'll stay in office.

"We have told them, before and today, if there is a better alternative, our nation will accept it", Barzani said while addressing thousands of supporters at a rally in Zakho's football stadium.

"There is no other way to guarantee that genocide will never be repeated", Khoshnaw told the assembly earlier, referring to the persecution of the Kurds and their expulsion from areas such as oil-rich Kirkuk under late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

But the ethnically mixed city also has Arab and Turkmen populations.

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