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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Iraqi Kurd president dismisses US alternative to avert referendum 

Masoud Barzani defies international calls to delay independence vote amid escalating tensions in the country

Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani, centre, and Najim Karim, right, the governor of Kirkuk who was sacked by parliament, at a meeting between representatives of the peshmerga and Arab, Kurdish, and Iraqi Turkmen tribal leaders in Kirkuk city on September 12, 2017. Marwan Ibrahim / AFP
Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani, centre, and Najim Karim, right, the governor of Kirkuk who was sacked by parliament, at a meeting between representatives of the peshmerga and Arab, Kurdish, and Iraqi Turkmen tribal leaders in Kirkuk city on September 12, 2017. Marwan Ibrahim / AFP

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan dismissed alternatives offered by the United States to avert its highly contested referendum.

"To date, we have not received an alternative that can replace the referendum, the alternative that we wanted was not offered," Masoud Barzani said during a rally for Kurdish independence in the province of Duhok.

His comments follow a meeting on Thursday with the US envoy to the anti-ISIL campaign, Brett McGurk, the US ambassador Douglas Silliman, British ambassador Frank Baker and Jan Kubis, the UN special representative and head of its assistance mission in Iraq.

Mr McGurk has said a plan was proposed to the Kurdish authorities but provided no details.

The United States has warned the government of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region that the vote would distract from Iraq’s battle against ISIL.

"We did, of course, reiterate the position of the United States, that this referendum is ill timed and ill advised. It is not something that we can support. That is not simply our position. That is the position of our entire international coalition," Mr McGurk said.

Mr Barzani has repeatedly said there was no turning back on holding the referendum unless Iraqi Kurdistan received a "better alternative" for achieving Kurdish independence.

On Thursday, Iraq's parliament sacked the governor of Kirkuk, prompting Mr Barzani to cut ties with Baghdad's central government.

The decision to dismiss Najmadin Karim, the Kurdish governor of the oil-rich province claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurdish region, followed a decision by the province to take part in the independence referendum.

Mr Barzani accused Iraq's central government in Baghdad of refusing to treat the Kurds as equal partners and refusing to share power, his assistant, Hemin Hawrami, said.

Baghdad has repeatedly opposed the referendum, calling it "unconstitutional". Mr Barzani says the referendum’s "legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan, not from the outside".

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Read more:

Barzani says ties with Baghdad are cut over sacking of Kirkuk governor

Iraqi prime minister urges unity in the final stages of liberation from ISIL

Kurds 'might hold off referendum' in return for concessions from Baghdad

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