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Iraqi PM demands suspension of Kurdish referendum

Supreme Court orders suspension after receiving 'complaints' over constitutional validity of 25 September vote
Kurds in Kirkuk at a pro-independence rally (Reuters)

Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has formally demanded that the Kurdistan region suspend its plan to hold a referendum on independence after the country's Supreme Court ordered its suspension.

The Iraqi Supreme Court approved Abadi's demand to consider "the breakaway of any region or province from Iraq as unconstititional", his office said.

"Holding (the referendum) will lead to dangerous outcomes, resulting in the division of Iraq and threatening civil peace."

Turkish army conducts drill at Iraqi border ahead of Kurdish referendum

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said it had issued the order to suspend "until it examines the complaints it has received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional".

The court took the decision after it "reviewed requests to stop the referendum".

A source in parliament said at least three politicians had filed complaints against the poll.

Neighbours Turkey and Iran, as well as the United States and United Nations, have pleaded for the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq to settle its differences with Baghdad through negotiations rather than secession. Israel has been the only country to back the vote.

No Kurdish response

The court's order bears legal weight but it cannot be implemented in practice in the Kurdish region, which has its own police and its own government.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani has said a "yes" vote would not trigger an immediate declaration of independence but rather kick-start "serious discussions" with Baghdad.

He has already rejected a US alternative to the referendum, which asked for a two-year wait and talks with Baghdad.

There was no immediate reaction to Abadi's demand, but Barzani last month said constitutional failures by Baghdad meant it could not use the document against the Kurds.

“What constitutional article gave you the right to cut the bread of Kurdistan? What constitutional article gave you the right to violate and ignore Article 140?” Barzani asked at the time. 

Article 140 states that measures should be taken to reverse the Arabisation policy of Saddam Hussein, known as Anfal, in northern Iraq.

Barzani noted that Baghdad had denied the Peshmerga their share of the budget but parliament took just hours to pass a law bringing the mainly Shia Hashd al-Shaabi forces under government purview and financial backing. 

Britain tries to stop vote 

Britain's defence secretary, Michael Fallon, said on Monday he would try to persuade Barzani at a meeting to call off the controversial vote.

"I will be this afternoon in Erbil to tell Massoud Barzani that we do not support the Kurdish referendum," he said in Baghdad.

"We are committed to the integrity of Iraq. We are working with the UN on alternatives to this referendum."

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