Iraq PM rejects any Kurdish independence referendum

Iraq PM rejects any Kurdish independence referendum

Iraq PM rejects any Kurdish independence referendum

"The move is aimed at weakening the regional countries and it is a ground for penetration of foreigners in the region, in particular the Zionist regime of Israel", Velayati said.

The two sides cooperated in the battle against Islamic State but many Iraqis wonder whether the central government can unite a country that has suffered sectarian and ethnic violence since a USA -led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Residents in provinces controlled by the KRG will vote September 25 on independence from Baghdad.

The president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, said once again late Monday that he would proceed with the referendum despite warnings at home and overseas.

Officially comprising Irbil, Dahuk and Sulaimaniyah provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan also claims other territory including oil-rich Kirkuk province - a dispute that is a major source of contention with Baghdad.

"Those who are chasing dreams in Syria and Iraq should know very well that any attempt that threatens our national security, from inside or outside our borders, will be immediately retaliated in kind", Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim said in a speech in the southern Turkish town of Sanliurfa.

Tensions have risen as a result of the scheduled vote, in which the Iraqi Kurdistan region and areas recently liberated from the IS and held by the Peshmerga forces are to participate.

Turkey's defence minister warned on Tuesday that the breakup of Iraq or Syria could have dire consequences.

Turkey launched military exercises on the Iraqi border on Monday, the military said in a brief statement. Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli also told reporters on September 19 that Turkey could never allow the foundation of an "ethnic-based state in northern Iraq".

The standoff has hit the Turkish lira, which weakened beyond 3.5 to the dollar on Tuesday for the first time in four weeks. Washington has supported Syrian Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State, despite Turkish protests.

Cross-border trade, however, appeared to continue. Turkey's strong economic ties to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) will weigh on any response from Ankara. On Monday, Russia's state-run energy company Rosneft said it sees an agreement on a gas pipeline project with the KRG completed by year's end.

On Friday, the Kurdish Parliament unanimously ratified the referendum amid pro-independence rallies across the region. "But if they go ahead to hold the referendum despite all these warnings, then it will surely be responded to".

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