Kirkuk governor sacked over Kurd independence vote

Q&A Kirkuk Gov. Najmaldin Karim

Q&A Kirkuk Gov. Najmaldin Karim

The United States said on Friday the plan for an independence referendum in northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region this month distracts from efforts to defeat Daesh and urged Kurdish leaders to call off the vote.

On June 7, Barzani announced his intention to hold a referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region and the disputed areas outside the region on September 25.

Controversially, the vote will also be held in so-called disputed areas outside the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) official boundaries. While providing no details on the alternative, Brett McGurk, U.S. special presidential envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition said at a news conference in Irbil he had presented it to Kurdish leaders.

His remarks followed a meeting in Erbil on Thursday with the USA envoy to the anti-ISIL campaign, Brett McGurk, who attempted to persuade the Kurdish leader to call off the referendum in exchange for a new diplomatic initiative to reach a deal between the Kurds and Baghdad.

A auto bomb explosion targeting a shop selling alcohol in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk on Saturday killed two civilians and wounded eight, a security official said.

Earlier, the two major Kurdish parties of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that the Parliament session, originally scheduled on Thursday, would be delayed to late Friday to convince Goran Movement and the Islamic group to attend the first parliament session in two years.

Iraqi Kurdish referendum 'historic mistake': Turkey
The move came after Iraq's parliament voted to remove the governor of Kirkuk, a staunch supporter of Kurdish independence. Israel's leader on Wednesday said his country supports Kurdish independence ahead of a key referendum on the matter.

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

Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi'ite paramilitary groups have threatened to dislodge the Kurdish forces from the Kirkuk region, which is due to take part in the referendum.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview on Friday that Barzani's decision not to postpone the referendum was "very wrong".

"The government opposes a unilateral referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region, which is not agreed with the central government in Baghdad", he added.

Analysts say the referendum is unlikely to lead to an immediate declaration of independence and is designed, for now, to bolster the Kurds' bargaining position with Baghdad over disputed territories, shared oil revenues and greater autonomy.

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