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Barzani Demands Finding Substitute for Referendum in 3 Days | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Saber Salim sits in the center of Irbil adorned with Kurdish flags ahead of the upcoming referendum on independence from Iraq, in Irbil, Iraq. AP

Ankara, Irbil- Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani asserted on Tuesday that the region has decided to proceed with the referendum next Monday and asked for an alternative guaranteeing independence to be presented in three days.

Speaking during a rally in support of the referendum in Soran, Barzani said: “If we receive an alternative in the coming days by the international community that guarantees Kurdistan’s independence, we will postpone the referendum and celebrate on Sep. 25. And, if we do not receive it, we will proceed with holding the referendum.”

Meanwhile, the city of Kirkuk witnessed on Monday one of its most tensed nights since more than a year when a group of young Kurds and Arabs supporting the referendum were welcomed by gun shooting in the city. One young Kurd was killed and four others, including two Arabs, were injured.

Shortly after the incident, security forces in the province of Kirkuk announced that the situation was under control after taking several measures to prevent violent works and terrorist activities in the city as the referendum date approaches.

“Despite the occurrence of some incidents on Monday night in Kirkuk, the security situation is stable unlike reports published by some media,” spokesperson for Kirkuk Security (Asayish) Farhad Hama Ali told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.

Hama Ali said that on Monday night, several guards from a Turkmen political party’s office started shooting at a number of Kirkuk young men who were celebrating the referendum on independence.

Baghdad and Irbil engaged in a war of words after Irbil said it would include disputed territories as voting constituencies, most notably the oil-rich Kirkuk, which both governments claim sovereignty.

Meanwhile, a festival was held on Tuesday at the historic Kirkuk Citadel in support of the independence vote.

The ceremony was attended by Kirkuk Governor Najm al-Din Karim and other officials from the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

The governor, whom the Iraqi parliament has recently voted for removing, said during the festival: “Kirkuk will remain a Kurdistan city.”

For his part, Sheikh Masrour Naji, head of al-Jabouri tribes in Kirkuk told Asharq Al-Awsat that the situation in the city was calm and safe.

“As an Arab entity, we have no fears for the future,” he said, adding that the referendum serves all the entities of Kirkuk. “We support the referendum on independence and we will vote for it,” Naji said.