Kurds, Iraqi forces in stand-off in Kirkuk

Kurdish Peshmerga commander in Kirkuk Huseyin Yazdanpena

"Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilisation are now advancing from Taza, south of Kirkuk, in a major operation; their intention is to enter the city and take over (the) K1 base and oil fields, " said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Security Council.

In Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have rejected a warning from the country's paramilitary force to withdraw from a strategic junction in south of Kirkuk.

The Iraqi government accused Kurdish authorities on Sunday of bringing fighters from Turkey's separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk and said it considered the move a "declaration of war".

"Iraqi armed force are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014", the general told AFP by telephone, asking not to be identified.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said there can be no further discussion of the Kurds' longstanding demands to incorporate Kirkuk and other historically Kurdish-majority areas in their autonomous region until the independence vote is annulled.

An Iraqi military spokesman denied the KRG claim.

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"We are against violence and bloodshed", it said.

Baghdad remains bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate Kirkuk province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back.

There is concern about a meeting between Iraqi and Kurdish militaries as a result of increased tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, a cause of a separatist referendum held last September.

Both Iraqi military and Peshmerga forces have been operating in close proximity in northern Iraq in the USA -backed war against the Islamic State group.

Iraq's central government responded by imposing a ban on direct worldwide flights to Kurdistan's airports, placing severe restrictions on Kurdish-owned banks and threatening to end the region's independent crude oil sales.

The group's last territory in Iraq is now a stretch skirting the western border with Syria following the fall of the town of Hawija and surrounding areas on October 5 in an offensive by US-backed Iraqi forces.

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