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Kurdish Parliament Postpones Referendum On Constitution

Iraqi Kurdish parliament speaker Adnan Mufti
Iraqi Kurdish parliament speaker Adnan Mufti
IRBIL, Iraq -- The Kurdish regional parliament has voted to postpone a referendum scheduled later this month on the autonomous region's controversial constitution, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

The decision was made in an extraordinary session of parliament on July 9 in Irbil, the Kurdish capital. The referendum on the constitution was to be held on July 25 simultaneously with the region's parliamentary elections.

But the region's election commission decided it could not organize both votes on the same day for technical reasons.

Parliament speaker Adnan Mufti said the Kurdish regional government (KRG), parliament presidium, and other competent bodies will work to set a new date for the referendum.

Mufti said Kurds do not question the Kurdish election commission's independence and integrity but its decision not to hold the referendum simultaneously with the parliamentary elections "has been influenced by the bad publicity the constitution has received in Baghdad."

Shi'ite and Sunni Arab politicians in Baghdad have criticized the draft Kurdish constitution -- which has been approved by the Kurdish legislature -- as showing "secessionist" tendencies.

Mufti said that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- an ethnic Kurd -- and KRG President Masud Barzani in a phone conversation that the Kurdish region is entitled to its own constitution, but should seriously consider the objections raised against it and resolve the situation through dialogue.

Kurdish lawmakers interviewed by RFE/RL after the parliamentary session expressed skepticism that a referendum will be held on the constitution in view of what they called "political pressure and prejudicial positions" against the document.