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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Iraq supreme court orders suspension of Kurdish referendum

The court said it had ordered the suspension of the poll — planned for September 25 - until it 'examines complaints it has received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional'

Helicopters fly over Iraqi Kurds celebrating in support of the upcoming September 25 independence referendum, in Dohuk on September 16, 2017. Ari Jalal / Reuters
Helicopters fly over Iraqi Kurds celebrating in support of the upcoming September 25 independence referendum, in Dohuk on September 16, 2017. Ari Jalal / Reuters

Iraq's supreme court on Monday ordered the suspension of the Kurdish independence referendum planned for September 25, to examine whether such a poll would be constitutional.

"The supreme court has issued the order to suspend organising the referendum set for September 25 … until it examines the complaints it has received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional," it said.

The court took the decision after it "reviewed requests to stop the referendum", it added.

Court spokesman Ayas Al Samouk said: "We have received several complaints and this is why we decided to suspend the referendum."

A source in parliament said at least three MPs had filed complaints against the poll.

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Neighbours Turkey and Iran, as well as the United States and United Nations, have pleaded for the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq to settle its differences with Baghdad through negotiations rather than secession.

Iraqi Kurdish president Masoud Barzani has said a "yes" vote would not trigger an immediate declaration of independence but rather kick-start "serious discussions" with Baghdad.

The supreme court decision comes a day after UN secretary general Antonio Guterres urged Mr Barzani's Kurdistan Regional Government to scrap the poll, arguing it will distract from the fight against ISIL, as well as undermine reconstruction efforts and the return of refugees.

He said any dispute between the Iraqi government and KRG should be resolved through dialogue and "constructive compromise".

UN envoy to Iraq Jan Kubis told Mr Barzani last week that the UN was ready to broker negotiations to address "all the problems and outstanding issues" between the Kurds and Baghdad, according to a document obtained by AFP.

The negotiations would aim to reach a deal within two or three years on the "principles and arrangements" for future relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish region, the document said.

In return, Mr Barzani's administration would agree to postpone the referendum at least until the end of negotiations.

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