Sadr urges Kurdistan to cancel September independence referendum

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. File photo.

Baghdad ( Influential Iraqi Shia cleric and paramilitary leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called upon Kurdistan’s regional government to backtrack on its plans to hold a referendum on independence from Iraq.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sadr said he calls upon KRG’s leader Masud Barzani to “call off the secession referendum…at least as a first step towards cancelling it in the future”.

He urged to give up the measure “especially with the country at the verge of liberating Mosul,” referring to Iraq’s second largest city where eight-month-old security operations near the elimination of the last few hundred Islamic State militants from the group’s largest urban stronghold.

“There is one Iraq for everyone, it does not discriminate against any Iraqi as long as they love he loves his/her country and do not operate with foreign agendas,” as he put it in his statement.

Kurdistan has reiterated the referendum, agreed during a local political meeting early June, was not binding, but Baghdad regularly argued the move was untimely as the country struggles to drive out Islamic State militants who had taken over large areas of the country since 2014.

“The federal government will not partake, support or fund the referendum on the Kurdish region’s independence from Iraq,”Iraqi’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement last month. “I think the referendum will add more problems to the region, especially that it is not totally agreed upon by the Kurds themselves. It could further complicate the region’s currently strained economy after independence.”

Kurdistan gained autonomous governance based on the 2005 constitution, but is still considered a part of Iraq. The region was created in 1970 based on an agreement with the Iraqi government, ending years of fierce fighting.

Both governments in Iraq and Erbil engaged in political spats over regions recaptured by Kurdish Peshmerga (army) troops from the Islamic State militants since campaigns against the group launched in October.


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