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Iraq supreme court freezes Kurdistan referendum

Baghdad says September vote 25 calling for independence of Iraqi Kurdistan may be unconstitutional

Iraqi Kurds celebrate while urging people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 8, 2017. (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)
Iraqi Kurds celebrate while urging people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 8, 2017. (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed)

Iraq’s supreme court on Monday ordered the suspension of a September 25 referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, to examine whether such a poll would be constitutional.

“The supreme court has issued the order to suspend organizing the referendum set for September 25… until it examines the complaints it has received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional,” it said in a statement.

The court made the decision after it “reviewed requests to stop the referendum,” the statement said.

Court spokesman Ayas al-Samouk told AFP: “We have received several complaints and this is why we decided to suspend the referendum.”

A source in parliament said at least three lawmakers had filed complaints against the poll.

Iraq’s Kurdistan region president Massud Barzani (2nd-L) attends a meeting with Kirkuk provincial Governor Najim al-Din Karim (3rd-L), first Deputy for the Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party Kosrat Rasoul Ali (L), Peshmerga commander Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa (2nd-R), Salah Dalo (R), leading member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and other Peshmerga and Kurdish party leaders in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on September 12, 2017. (AFP Photo/Marwan Ibrahim)

Neighbors Turkey and Iran, as well as the United States and United Nations, have pleaded for the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq to settle its differences with Baghdad through negotiations rather than secession.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani has said a “yes” vote would not trigger an immediate declaration of independence but rather kick-start “serious discussions” with Baghdad.

Israel is alone in openly supporting Kurdish independence.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said he would try to persuade Barzani at a meeting later Monday to call off a controversial referendum.

“I will be this afternoon in Erbil to tell Massud Barzani that we do not support the Kurdish referendum,” he said at a press conference in Baghdad.

“We are committed to the integrity of Iraq. We are working with the UN on alternatives to this referendum,” he said before heading to the Iraqi Kurdish capital in the northern city.

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