USA 'strongly opposes' Iraqi Kurd referendum

USA 'strongly opposes' Iraqi Kurd referendum

Iraq's Supreme Court has issued a verdict suspending the upcoming vote saying it has received multiple requests to block it.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US was urging the Kurds to "accept the alternative" - talks between the northern Kurdish region and Iraq's central government that the USA and United Nations would facilitate.

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have on many occasions stated the door for negotiations and dialogue would never be closed between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve their disputes peacefully. Economic sanctions on Iraqi Kurds would be a double-edged sword, while any military action could drag Turkey into a quagmire and possibly isolate the country.

"I will be this afternoon in Arbil to tell Massud Barzani that we do not support the Kurdish referendum", he said at a press conference in Baghdad.

While the countdown for the referendum has already begun, the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq has turned into a battlefield for Kurds and Turkmens to fight each other.

Iraq's neighbours, particularly Iran and Turkey, as well as United Nations, U.S. and U.K. are also against the referendum, calling it a distraction of attention from war with the "Islamic State" (IS). Erected in July, the statue has come to symbolize how the Kurds want to cement their hold on oil-rich Kirkuk and other parts of the region by holding next Monday's vote.

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Turkey launched a military drill featuring tanks close to the Iraqi border on Monday, its army said. The first big obstacle comes here because none of the 5 permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. - must veto the application. The State Department urged the Kurds to negotiate with Iraq instead of having a vote.

The court took the decision after it "reviewed requests to stop the referendum", the statement said.

The UK holds the same stance, complaining about timing.

Western powers, meanwhile, have voiced concern that the referendum and any ensuing violence will distract Iraqi and Kurdish forces from the ongoing battle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Barzani demanded that an alternative to the referendum - with insurance that a guarantee is provided in response to its postponement - be presented within three days.

Meanwhile neighbouring Turkey, which has frequently attacked Kurdistan Workers Party guerillas inside northern Iraq, has threatened to "respond" to a Yes vote in the referendum. In contrast to this, Iranian officials have taken a more subtle and soft tone towards the referendum. The referendum is the latest effort of a multifaceted push by Kurdish leaders to build support for their cause in Washington.

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