Kurdish leader calls for independence referendum

Baghdad: The leader of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region Thursday asked the regional parliament to prepare for a referendum on the independence of the region as well as the disputed areas adjacent to the country’s north, an official Kurdish website said.

Masoud Barzani, leader of Iraq’s Kurdistan, asked the regional parliament “to organise a referendum on the right of self-determination for the region and to set a date for it,” Xinhua quoted the website of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as saying.

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Barzani asked lawmakers to form a regional electoral commission to organise the referendum for the disputed areas to decide whether to be ruled by Baghdad or stay with the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, the website said.

On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki rejected Barzani’s earlier comments about referendum to establish a Kurdish state and his claims to control the disputed areas, which are now in the hands of the Kurdish security forces.

“You (Kurds) have chosen, by the text of the constitution, to be part of Iraq which is a democratic and federal, and you have become a federal. There is nothing in the constitution named self-determination,” Maliki told the Kurds in his weekly televised speech.

“No one has the right to exploit the events that occurred to impose a fait accompli, like what happened in some of the actions of the Kurdistan region. This is a rejected act,” Maliki said, referring to Barzani’s earlier comments that after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from the disputed areas, the Kurdish soldiers have no choice but to step in to protect the people from the terrorists, stressing that the Kurds will not withdraw from these areas.

The disputed areas are mainly ethnically mixed with the Kurds, Arabs, Turkmans and other minorities. The Kurds demanded to expand their autonomous region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other areas in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala.