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Iraqi PM Demands Annulment Of Kurdish Independence Vote


Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi (file photo)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is demanding that this week's referendum on independence for the autonomous Kurdish region be annulled.

"The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution. We will never hold talks on the results of the referendum," Abadi told Iraqi lawmakers on September 27.

"We will impose Iraqi law in the entire region of Kurdistan under the constitution," he said.

The autonomous region’s election authorities later announced the results of the September 25 referendum, saying it passed with 92.7 percent support and turnout of more than 72 percent.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the parliament asked Abadi to send troops to the Kurdish-held Kirkuk region and take control of its oil fields.

"The government has to bring the oil fields of Kirkuk back under the control of the Oil Ministry," said a resolution passed by parliament and seen by Reuters.

Kirkuk, a multiethnic region, has been under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters since 2014, when the Iraqi Army fled in the face of Islamic State militants.

The Kurdish presence in the region prevented the oil fields from being captured by the militants.

The resolution called on Abadi to "issue orders for the security forces to deploy in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk."

The Kurdish regional government included Kirkuk, an area that is also home to Turkoman and Arab communities but has been historically claimed by the Kurds, in the independence referendum.

While Kurdish leaders continued to call for talks with Baghdad over the independence vote, powerful Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia in Iran backed Abadi in refusing dialogue and taking a tough line against Kurdish leaders, including possibly using force to assert Baghdad's control over the region.

"We will not allow the division of Iraq," said Ahmed al-Asadi, the spokesmen for the Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces. But he said his fighters would not target the Kurdish people as a whole. "Those who held the referendum and divided Iraq, those are our targets," he said.

The Shi'ite militia has units near Kirkuk which Asadi said are awaiting orders "to go to any city or disputed area to impose government control according to the constitution."

Iranian media, meanwhile, said Iraqi Army Chief of Staff General Othman al-Ghanemi arrived in Iran on September 27 for talks with the Iranian armed forces' chief of staff, General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, on military cooperation.

Ghanemi plans to visit the two countries' joint border, part of which divides the Kurdish regions of the two countries, Iranian media said. Tehran, like Baghdad, strongly opposed the Kurdish referendum because of its potential to increase restiveness among its own Kurdish population.

In a related move, Lebanon's and Egypt's national carriers said they will halt flights to the Kurdish regional capital, Irbil, this week at the request of the Baghdad authorities.

The decision by Middle East Airlines and EgyptAir comes after Iraq's government threatened to ban international flights to and from Iraq's Kurdish region following the referendum.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa
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