AA:US urges 'unified Iraq' as country's Kurds vote

Peshmerga forces were seen waving Israel’s national flags in Erbil on Saturday

Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region kicked off an independence referendum on Monday in the face of strong objections from the central government in Baghdad and urgent calls from the global community to scrap the vote.

"With the request of Iraq's central government, all Iranian flights to Sulaimaniyah and Erbil as well as flights passing through our airspace to the Kurdistan region have been suspended", said Kayvan Khosravi, the spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council, on September 24.

He says the parliament considers the Kurdish referendum unconstitutional and calls for taking legal measures against all Kurdish officials and employees who took part in the vote.

The United States and other Western nations have also raised concerns, saying the vote could hamper the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group in which cooperation between Baghdad and the Kurds has been key.

Turkey renewed a bill on Saturday allowing the military to intervene in Iraq and Syria if faced with national security threats, a move seen as a final warning to Iraqi Kurds.

Barzani detailed the abuses Iraq's Kurds have faced by Iraqi forces, including killings at the hands of former leader Saddam Hussein's army that left more than 50,000 Kurds dead. "The moment we shut the valve, that's the end of it", Erdogan said.

Hours later, the Iraqi government called on all countries "to deal only with it on matters of oil and borders".

Voters were asked to tick either Yes or No on the ballot asking them just one question in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic and Assyrian: "Do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region to become an independent country?"

The UN Security Council also warned last week that the referendum could destabilise the region. The authorities of Iraq have announced that they will not recognize the results of the referendum since it is a violation of the Constitution.

Opposition to the vote emerged among non-Kurdish populations in areas disputed by the KRG and Baghdad, mainly the oil-rich region of Kirkuk.

"We stress again that we will take all measures arising from worldwide law and the Turkish parliament's authority in the face of every kind of threat to our national security in Iraq generally", it said.

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