Iraqi VP warns Kurdish referendum supporters of 'repercussions'
Iraq will not allow the creation of a "second Israel" on its territory, Iraqi vice president Nuri al-Maliki said Sunday, sending the latest sign of Baghdad's opposition to a referendum that the autonomous region of Kurdistan has set for later this month.
"We will not allow the establishment of a second Israel in northern Iraq," al-Maliki's office quoted him as saying at a meeting with US Ambassador to Baghdad Douglas Sliman.
"We warn backers of the referendum against the dangerous repercussions this measure will have on Iraq's sovereignty and unity," al-Maliki said.
The vice president asked Kurdistan to cancel the referendum scheduled for September 25, saying it is in the interest of neither the Iraqi people nor the Kurds.
Al-Maliki previously served as Iraq's prime minister. During his tenure, tensions between Baghdad and Erbil ran high.
Iraq does not have diplomatic ties with Israel, which has issued its support for the Kurdistan independence.
On Friday, Washington called on Kurdistan to call off the vote, fearing it will fuel regional unrest and distract attention from ongoing campaigns to rout Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Baghdad, a US ally, has repeatedly condemned the referendum, calling it "unconstitutional" and "unilateral."
The planned vote has also alarmed Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - that are worried it will encourage their Kurdish minorities to splinter off.
The plebiscite is planned to be held in Kurdistan and disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.