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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Iraqi Kurd president Barzani gives Baghdad an ultimatum on independence vote 

Massaoud Barzani called for bilateral agreements with Baghdad, backed by international and regional countries, to take place instead of the referendum, but said Baghdad had not offered this

Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani shakes hands while attending a rally to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Duhuk, Iraq September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal
Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani shakes hands while attending a rally to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Duhuk, Iraq September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan gave Baghdad three days to reach an agreement with his government over an alternative to next week's highly contested referendum vote.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Soran - a city in Erbil governorate - Masoud Barzani said: "Baghdad has three days to provide an alternative to Erbil or the referendum will go ahead."

Baghdad's central government rejects the vote calling it "unconstitutional", while Washington, Tehran and Ankara have pressed the Kurds to postpone the poll. They claim the referendum will distract from the fight against ISIL and will spark further instability in the region.

“People of the Kurdistan region want independence, we will not accept threatening language from any country. We are the factor of stability in the region." Mr Barzani said.

Instead, Mr Barzani called for bilateral agreements with Baghdad, backed by international and regional countries, to take place instead of the referendum, however, he said "this has not been offered yet".

"I will be honest with you, Baghdad has not reached that level yet,” Mr Barzani said. He gave the central government a deadline of “two to three days” to reach an agreement.

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The rally took place as tensions over the referendum continued to grow. A curfew was imposed in Kirkuk on Tuesday after one person was killed in clashes between Turkmen security guards and Kurds. The city is inhabited by several different ethnic groups and claimed by both the Kurdish region and Iraq's central government. The city's council has voted to take part in the referendum.

Turkey, which fears Kurdish independence in Iraq could empower the Kurdish separatists within its own borders, has deployed tanks and troops to near the Iraqi border.

Turkey's defence minister Nurettin Canikli warned on Tuesday that the breakup of Iraq or Syria could have dire consequences.

"A change that will mean the violation of Iraq's territorial integrity poses a major risk for Turkey," he said. "The disruption of Syria and Iraq's territorial integrity will ignite a bigger, global conflict with an unseen end."

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