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Iraq: Threat of ‘Kirkuk Powder Keg’ Grows | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Iraqi Kurdish man leaves the voting booth to cast his ballot in the referendum on independence from Iraq in Erbil, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. AP photo

Ankara, Baghdad, Erbil- Pressure on Iraq’s Kurdistan region mounted on Wednesday along with the announcement of official results in a non-binding referendum that showed 92.73 percent of voters backed statehood.

Disputed areas between the Kurdish capital Erbil and Baghdad, mainly the oil-rich Kirkuk province, have turned into powder kegs that could go off any moment.

Iraqi lawmakers passed on Wednesday a resolution calling on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to “take all necessary measures to maintain Iraq’s unity” including by deploying security forces to disputed areas, mainly Kirkuk, a move that could lead to armed confrontations in the multi-ethnic regions.

They also demanded that foreign governments close their diplomatic missions in Erbil and called for the closure of border posts with Turkey and Iran that are outside central government control.

“The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution. We will never hold talks based on the results of the referendum,” Abadi told the parliament.

“We will impose Iraqi law in the entire region of Kurdistan under the constitution,” he said.

Meanwhile, the military brass of Iran and Iraq met and held talks amid the controversy on the referendum.

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri received his Iraqi counterpart Major General Othman al-Ghanmi, who was in Tehran at the head of a military delegation.

Attempts to isolate the Kurds also came from Turkey.

Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday said that Omar Mirani, representative of Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s President Masoud Barzani was asked not to come back to Turkey.

Electoral commission officials told a news conference in Erbil that 92.73 percent of the 3,305,925 people who cast ballots voted “yes” in Monday’s referendum, which had a turnout of 72.61 percent.