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Iraqi Kurdish Parliament Backs Independence Referendum

Iraqi Kurdish Parliament Backs Independence Referendum”

Officials in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region have announced the northern territory would hold the independence referendum on September 25.

Earlier on Friday, the Iraqi Kurdish parliament approved a plan to hold a referendum on independence on September 25.

The White House issued a statement hours after the vote, asking the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.

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"That is why the United Kingdom has proposed new talks between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Government of Iraq on the future of the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad", said the Saturday statement, adding that such talks should be time limited and address all the issues of dispute between the two parties without preconditions.

Moves toward independence are strongly opposed by Baghdad.

Already in financial trouble due to waste and low oil prices, Kurdistan - like the rest of Iraq - relies on Baghdad for its share of the oil budget, giving the central government significant leverage. "Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing".

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The KRG has ignored increasing calls for the cancelation of the referendum, saying the vote would go ahead as planned.

The United States has proposed unspecified "alternatives" to the vote, to which Barzani has pledged to give a rapid response.

Gorran, the main opposition movement to Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), boycotted the parliament session in Erbil.

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"The leaders of the US, Britain and the United Nations would have had to commit to the date by which Kurdistan and Iraq would have negotiated Kurdish sovereignty - or commit to supporting a Kurdish unilateral declaration of independence".

The parliament session was the first held since the legislature was suspended almost two years ago, though only 68 of 111 lawmakers attended due to a boycott by the main opposition movement Gorran.

Oil-rich Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians.

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