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Iraqi Turkmen leader calls for postponement of KRG referendum

Iraqi Turkmen leader calls for postponement of KRG 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.

Also Friday, Iraq's Prime Minister received a call from his Turkish counterpart who underscored his rejection of the Kurdish vote, according to a statement released by Haider al-Abadi's office Friday evening.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said Friday that the United Nations might get involved in the controversy over the KRG's independence referendum plans in the upcoming days.Speaking to reporters in Ankara following Friday prayers, Yıldırım called on KRG leader Masoud Barzani to turn back from the decision to hold the vote, calling it "a grave mistake".

Moves toward independence are strongly opposed by Baghdad.

Critics of the vote, including the United States and the European Union and even some members of Iraq's 5.5 million-strong Kurdish minority, say it could distract from the fight against jihadists. "But because of this referendum, we have brought that date forward to September 22", Erdogan said.

"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 USA and other Western envoys this week.

The Kurdish presidency said the autonomous region's political leaders would study the proposal, without giving details.

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Turkey and the US are also opposed to the vote.

"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.

Iran and Syria also oppose the vote, fearing it could fan separatism among their own Kurdish populations. They regard the city, just outside their Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, as their historical capital.

"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.

Kirkuk is home to sizeable Arab and Turkmen populations and is outside the KRG official boundaries.

"The escalating tactics this week by the Iraqis are causing a large public backlash, and will strengthen the Kurdish referendum enormously", Zebari said.