Iraq’s parliament rejects Kurdish independence vote

BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq’s parliament voted yesterday to reject a controversial referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurds set for later this month, saying it is “unconstitutional” and a “threat” to the country’s unity, according to a lawmaker who attended the session.

Iraq’s Kurds plan to hold the referendum on September 25 in three governorates that make up their self-ruled region as well as disputed areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

The parliament decision states that the referendum is a “threat to Iraq’s integrity which is guaranteed by the constitution… in addition to the civil peace and the regional security”, lawmaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said, reading from the resolution.

Al-Mashhadani said the ruling considers the polls “unconstitutional”. It also requires that the central government “shoulder its responsibly to protect the unity of Iraq and to take all necessary measures to preserve that unity”, he added.

All Kurdish lawmakers boycotted yesterday’s session, while Arab lawmakers voted in favour, he said. A breakdown for the vote was not immediately available.

An Iraqi man waves a Kurdish flag during a gathering to show support for the independence referendum and encourage people to vote, in the town of Akra, north of Baghdad. – AFP