Iraq parliament demands troops go to areas disputed with Kurds

Iraq parliament demands troops go to areas disputed with Kurds

Residents of Iraq's Kurdish region cast their votes today in a controversial independence referendum seen as a way to signal the ethnic minority's desire for self-determination, despite strong opposition from regional and global powers. An estimated 5.2 million people were eligible to vote, including those living overseas who were able to cast their ballots electronically from September 23. The U.S. wants to avoid the prospect of another conflict between Baghdad and the Kurdish government while they are still fighting ISIS.

Reuters reports that "final results were expected within 72 hours".

The European Union also cautioned political parties in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region against holding the independence referendum. So far, 136 global observing teams, 142 worldwide media outlets, and 35 global individual observers have taken part in this process, Sherwan Zrar, the spokesperson of Kurdistan's Independent High Referendum and Electoral Commission (IHREC) told Rudaw on Saturday.

As night fell, a curfew was imposed in parts of the disputed city of Kirkuk, police said.

Voters were nonetheless flocking to the polls to pursue a long-cherished dream of statehood, and keen to show off their ink-stained fingers after casting their vote. "Discrimination between Iraqi citizens on the nationalist and ethnic foundation exposes Iraq to dangers known only by God", al-Abadi said from Baghdad.

The KRG's leader, Masoud Barzani, has said a Yes win would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad. The Kurds form a sizeable minority in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq.

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Turkey is home to the largest Kurdish population at an estimated 14 million.

"In Iraq, when necessary, we will not shy away from taking these types of steps", Erdogan said, referring to Turkey's military operation launched past year in Syria against Islamic State group (IS) extremists and Syrian Kurdish militia.

"We will take measures to safeguard the nation's unity and protect all Iraqis", he added.

Barzani addressed concerns that Turkey would shut its border with the Kurdish region following the vote, saying he hoped Turkey would leave the crossing open.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Kurdish independence was unacceptable, and a "matter of survival" for his country. There were fewer billboards celebrating the referendum, reflecting resentment that a yes vote could be seen as a plebiscite for the Kurdish leader.

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