WORLD

Kurdish official urges regional govt to delay independence referendum in northern Iraq

KURDISH OFFICIAL URGES REGIONAL GOVT TO DELAY INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM IN NORTHERN IRAQ

Mela Bahtiyar, an official in northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), urged the government to consider recent proposals to postpone a planned Sept. 25 referendum on Kurdish regional independence.

Bahtiyar, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), made the remarks at a Saturday press conference in the city of Sulaymaniyah to discuss the upcoming poll.

"The KRG should take recent proposals by the U.S., U.K. and UN seriously," Bahtiyar told reporters, referring to statements issued last week in which the world body -- along with Washington and London -- called for the referendum's postponement.

The PUK, too, Bahtiyar added, "would like to see the referendum deferred to a later date".

Alongside the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of KRG President Masoud Barzani, the PUK is a member of the KRG's ruling coalition government.

According to Bahtiyar, KRG coalition partners plan to discuss proposals for postponing the poll before making a final assessment on the issue.

Bahtiyar's assertions come despite repeated statements last week in which Barzani ruled out any possibility that the poll might be postponed.

Last Thursday, Barzani met with Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy to an international anti-Daesh coalition; UN Iraq envoy Jan Kubis; and U.K. Ambassador to Iraq Frank Bakery, all of whom reportedly urged him to postpone the referendum.

The controversial referendum -- results of which will be non-binding -- will see residents of the Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq.

Baghdad, however, rejects the planned poll, saying it will adversely affect the fight against Daesh, which still maintains a significant presence in northern Iraq.

The Iraqi government also believes that holding the poll would violate the terms of the country's 2005 constitution.

Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, saying the region's stability depends on the maintenance of Iraq's unity and territorial integrity.

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