Iraqi Kurds vow to press ahead with independence vote despite pressure

Pressure Mounts on Iraqi Kurds to Cancel Independence Vote

Pressure Mounts on Iraqi Kurds to Cancel Independence Vote

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani on Saturday delayed a scheduled news conference on the referendum as global pressure mounts for a postponement.

Ahmed, co-president of the political wing of a USA -backed Syrian Kurdish force battling the Islamic State militant group, said that unlike the Iraqi Kurdish referendum that's largely been rejected internationally, local Kurdish elections have faced no objections.

And they have forged impressive fighting forces - the peshmerga in Iraq and the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria - that have been most effective in taking on the reactionary Islamic State in both countries.

On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of neighbouring Turkey and Iran, which themselves have sizeable Kurdish minorities, agreed with their Iraqi counterpart that the referendum could divide Iraq and spark a wider regional conflict.

"If the referendum is not cancelled there will be serious consequences".

Since September 18, the Turkish army has been conducting tank drills near the border with the Iraqi Kurdish region.

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Yildirim spoke to reporters hours before Turkey's political and military leaders met to consider possible sanctions and other measures against Iraq's Kurdish region if it goes ahead with the vote on Monday. Opposing the upcoming referendum, the ministers noted that it violates the Iraqi constitution and expressed concern over the referendum creating further instability in the region.

AUTHORITIES in northern Syria hailed the first votes cast yesterday in what they call a first step toward Kurdish autonomy in the disputed region.

Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Turkey, are also strongly opposed to such a move. "So we could not agree on [a solution to] the crisis", Ali Allak, a member from Shia National Alliance, said.

In a separate development Friday, a spokesman for Iraq's mostly Shiite paramilitary troops known as Popular Mobilization Forces said they have joined the battle against Islamic State militants in the contested province of Kirkuk.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council warned that the referendum was "potentially destabilising".

Barzani talked about the bombardment of Halabja by chemical weapons during Saddam Hussein's rule, as well as Saddam's campaign against Kurdish villages in Iraq.

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