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Iraq: 92% voted in favour of Kurdish independence in referendum

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said there will be no dialogue with Kurdish leaders unless they declare the result invalid.

More than 92% of voters approved Kurdish independence from Iraq in the referendum held on Monday, official results declared on Wednesday said, according to AFP. Despite the strong response, the non-binding vote is unlikely to lead to a formal independence.

The result was declared soon after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the outcome of the vote to be cancelled, making it a prerequisite for dialogue, Reuters reported. Kurd Transport Minister Mowlud Murad had rejected his demand.

Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani had claimed that a majority of Kurds had voted in favour of independence from Iraq in the non-binding referendum held on Monday.

Abadi has also asked Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government to hand over control of international airports by Friday or face a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region in north Iraq.

In response, Murad said keeping control of airports was necessary for the fight against the Islamic State group.

Kurds make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in West Asia and have long wanted a separate state of their own. However, rivals as well as allies of the Kurdish Regional Government, are opposed to their independence. The Iraqi government, the United States, Iran and Turkey all called the referendum illegitimate, saying it is a dangerous step towards the division of the country.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council had said the referendum could have a “potentially destabilising impact”, and the Iraqi Supreme Court had suspended it.

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