Kurdish parliament votes to move ahead with referendum

Iraqi Kurds celebrate while urging people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq

Kurdish lawmakers on Friday voted to plow ahead with an independence referendum on September 25, in a move foreign observers fear will ignite conflict with the federal Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The Kurdish region's parliament voted Friday evening to approve the holding of a controversial referendum on support for independence September 25, according to broadcasts of the session by local television.

Meanwhile, the United States in its reaction said the plan for an independence referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan region will distract from efforts to defeat Islamic State.

It also called on the regional government "to seize this opportunity and to enter into serious negotiations with Baghdad".

"Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing", it added.

KRG President Masoud Barzani said Thursday he could consider an offer to delay the vote.

"There is no other way to guarantee that genocide will never be repeated", Khoshnaw told the assembly earlier, referring to the persecution of the Kurds and their expulsion from areas such as oil-rich Kirkuk under late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

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Both of these votes were boycotted by Kurdish legislators.

The non-binding referendum will see residents in provinces controlled by the KRG vote on independence from Iraq.

"We launched this petition to protest the council's failure to implement decisions taken by the central administration, represented by the Iraqi parliament", Mimaroglu said.

"The referendum's legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan, not from the outside", he added.

"Even if the independence referendum is held, Baghdad will not recognize its outcome".

Under this plan, a well-placed source told AFP, the worldwide community will oversee negotiations on revenue sharing in Iraq's oil budget and payment for Kurdish militia fighters. Supporters of the referendum argue Kurds deserve their own state after fighting IS and facing years of oppression at the hands of governments in Baghdad, including gassing and ethnic cleansing under former dictator Saddam Hussein.

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