Iraqi Kurdish parliament votes to hold referendum

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Also Friday, Iraq's Prime Minister received a call from his Turkish counterpart who underscored his rejection of the Kurdish vote, according to a statement released by Haider al-Abadi's office Friday evening.

The Iraqi parliament earlier this week voted against plans by leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq to hold the non-binding September 25 referendum.

Baghdad and Iraq's neighbors are opposed to the vote.

Critics of the vote, including the United States and the European Union and even some members of Iraq's 5.5 million-strong Kurdish minority, say it could distract from the fight against jihadists.

Thursday, a senior USA official announced that Brussels, Washington, Paris, London and Baghdad had cooperatively developed an alternative plan to the contentious referendum.

An global delegation, including the United States, Britain and UN envoys, met with Barzani and presented the alternative path for the controversial independence referendum.

The prime minister said he is expecting to see new developments regarding the issue after the U.N.'s possible involvement.

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Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups have threatened to dislodge the Kurdish forces from the oil-rich Kirkuk region, which is due to take part in the referendum.

Iraq's Kurdish region has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the USA imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War.

On June 7, Barzani announced his intention to hold a referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region from Iraq on September 25.

Kareem is a vocal supporter of the referendum and campaigned for the vote also to be held in Kirkuk. They regard the city, just outside their Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, as their historical capital.

"He [Kareem] is an elected governor of the council of Kirkuk", said Hoshyar Zebari, a close adviser to President Barzani.

Kirkuk is home to sizeable Arab and Turkmen populations and lies outside the official boundaries of the Kurdistan region.

With the exception of Israel, nearly all Western countries friendly to the Iraqi Kurds have publicly opposed the Kurdish referendum.

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