Iraq Rejects Plan for Kurdish Independence Vote

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Local officials in Iraq's eastern Diyala province on Tuesday announced their decision not to take part in an upcoming referendum on Kurdish regional independence.

Scheduled for September 25, the non-binding referendum will see residents of northern Iraq's Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from Baghdad.

The Iraqi parliament on Tuesday condemned a referendum vote slated for later this month that would possibly grant independence to Iraqi Kurds. Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session before the vote and issued statements rejecting the decision.

The town lies on a major fault line of Arab-Kurdish tensions because it is located in oil-rich Kirkuk - a province contested by the Baghdad government and the autonomous Kurdish region and home to diverse communities, including Arabs and Turkmen.

The non-binding referendum planned for Sept 25 has faced strong opposition from neighbouring Iran and Turkey, which fear it will stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizeable Kurdish minorities.

Iraqi Kurdish boys play football near referendum campaign posters of Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani in Irbil.

Barzani had said he wants to pursue independence though dialogue without provoking a conflict.

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"This referendum lacks a constitutional basis and thus it is considered unconstitutional", the parliamentary resolution said, without specifying what measures the central government should take to stop Kurdistan from breaking away.

"The council of Diyala province has decided in its session today to reject the referendum of Kurdistan in any area within the current Diyala's provincial border", said Ali al-Daiyni, head of the provincial council at a news conference.

Turkey and Iran, concerned about separatist leanings among their own Kurdish populations, are also opposed to the referendum, and the United Nations mission to Iraq has said it will not be "engaged in any way or form" in the vote.

Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces have played a key role in battling the Islamic State group (IS) which captured swathes of the country in 2014, and the fight has borne fruit in recent months.

A Kurdish delegation met officials in Baghdad for a first round of talks in August concerning the referendum.

In addition, the neighboring countries of Turkey, Iran and Syria see that such a step would threaten their territorial integrity, as larger populations of Kurds live in those countries.

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