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Kurdish leader rules out delay to referendum schedule

Storyline:National News, Politics


Any postponement of next Monday’s controversial referendum on Kurdish regional independence is out of question, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani said on Saturday.

“Holding a referendum is the decision of the people,” Barzani said as he met with French ambassador to Iraq Bruno Aubert at his residence in Erbil, according to a statement issued by his office.

The poll would not be postponed but be held on schedule, he added.

His remarks came after repeated calls from Turkey, U.S., UN and Iran to cancel the vote slated for Sept. 25, saying that the referendum will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.

Meanwhile, the latest talks between Erbil and Baghdad on the referendum ended fruitless as a KRG delegation met with the Shia National Alliance in capital Baghdad earlier in the day.

Speaking on behalf of the KRG delegation, Roj Nuri Shaways said they expressed Erbil’s determination to hold the referendum, but they could not agree on this with the central government in Baghdad.

“We conveyed our opinions [on referendum] clearly and without hesitation to our friends in the coalition. We told them that we want the dialogue [with Baghdad] to continue after Sept. 25 as well,” he told a press conference after the meeting.

“They said that they would only support the dialogue for the pre-referendum [period].”

“We have seen that our Kurdish brothers are insistent on the referendum. We have expressed that we are opposed to this completely. So we could not agree on [a solution to] the crisis,” Ali Allak, a member from Shia National Alliance, said.

The non-binding referendum will see Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas — and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad — vote whether to declare full independence from Iraq.

Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.

KRG’s leader, Masoud Barzani, has said a “Yes” vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.