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Erbil talks independence, as anger rises over Iraqi air strike

Kurdish regional parliament discusses setting date for independence referendum, as Peshmerga go head-to-head with Baghdad forces
Peshmerga forces raise the Kurdish flag at a checkpoint between Kirkuk and Tikrit (AFP)

Iraqi Kurdistan's parliament will being discuss establishing independent elections for the autonomous region today, according to officials.

The discussion comes on the back of a call last week from Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Regional Government, for parliament to set a date for a referendum on independence for the autonomous region.

Barzani has previously said that a referendum could be held within a matter of months, but the prospect of such a vote has ignited inflammatory rhetoric among Kurdish and Iraqi Arab politicians.

A representative of the ruling State of Law Coalition said on Monday that “Kurdish leaders and the Kurdish people reject Barzani’s suggestion that the region be split off from Iraq.”

Sadiq al-Liban, a representative from Najaf, told Iraqi news site al-Sumaria that “Barzani has violated the constitution, and is trying to find unconstitutional ways to succeed in his demands”.

Hanan Fatlawi, another MP from the State of Law Coalition known for her provocative comments, said on Sunday that President Barzani’s “expansionist dreams will destroy the Kurdish people and lead them into an abyss”.

Hopes for Kurdish independence face challenges in the international arena, despite Barzani saying on Sunday that he does not expect “active assistance or resistance” from either Washington or Ankara.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told journalists on Sunday that a Kurdish referendum would be “the start of a catastrophic division of Iraq into smaller rival states”, reports Egypt’s MENA news agency.

As political tensions continue to ratchet up, an Iraqi army air strike on a town claimed as Kurdish has provoked anger and promises of retaliation from the Kurdish force, the Peshmerga.

Jets thought to belong to the Iraqi army struck the town of Tuz Khurmatu, 88 kilometres south of Kirkuk, on Sunday afternoon, killing a 12-year old girl in a hit reportedly 200 metres from the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.

Though the town is not majority Kurdish, it is currently held by soldiers from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who have expanded the territory under their control by up to 40 percent since militants began a lightning surge across Iraq last month.

The attack prompted the Kurdish Minister of Peshmerga to warn that “if the Iraqi government fails to address the issue, the Peshmerga forces will not hesitate to retaliate.”

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