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Iraq's parliament rejects Kurdish independence vote

BAGHDAD — Iraq's parliament voted on yesterday to reject a controversial referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurds set for later this month, saying it is "unconstitutional" and a "threat" to the country's unity.

Iraq's Kurds plan to hold the referendum on Sept. 25 in three governorates that make up their self-ruled region as well as disputed areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

The parliament decision states that the referendum is a "threat to Iraq's integrity which is guaranteed by the constitution.... in addition to the civil peace and the regional security," according to the assembly's website.

The ruling considers the polls "unconstitutional." It also requires that the central government "shoulder its responsibly to protect the unity of Iraq and to take all necessary measures to preserve that unity," he added.

All Kurdish lawmakers boycotted yesterday's session, while Arab lawmakers voted in favor, said lawmaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who attended the session. A breakdown for the vote was not immediately available.

Turkey and Iran, concerned about separatist leanings among their own Kurdish populations, are also opposed to the referendum, and the UN mission to Iraq has said it will not be "engaged in any way or form" in the vote.

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Late last month, the ethnically-mixed Kirkuk province voted to join the Kurdish independence vote in a meeting boycotted by Arab and Turkmen councilmen.

Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani, who is spearheading the independence vote, visited Kirkuk on yesterday.

Oil-rich Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. Kurdish forces took control of the province and other disputed areas in the summer of 2014, when the Islamic State group swept across northern and central Iraq and the Iraqi armed forces crumbled.

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