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Leading Iraqi Shia cleric slams ‘divisive’ region poll

LEADING IRAQI SHIA CLERIC SLAMS ‘DIVISIVE’ REGION POLL

A spokesman for prominent Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani on Friday blasted this week's illegitimate poll on Kurdish regional independence.

"We [Iraqis] are deeply disturbed by these attempts to break up the country," spokesman Ahmad Saafi said, speaking in Karbala on al-Sistani's behalf.

"Imposing division and secession [of northern Iraq] as a fait accompli could lead to unwelcome behavior vis-à-vis Kurdish citizens [of Iraq], which could further enflame the situation," he added.

"These divisive moves will pave the way for foreign interference in the region's internal affairs," Saafi warned.

He said Iraq's internal political disputes should be resolved based on the Iraqi constitution, adding: "Iraq's government and political authorities must ensure the rights of Kurdish citizens."

Saafi went on to assert that the historical bonds between Iraq's Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen "should not be affected by these recent political developments".

Monday's illegitimate referendum in northern Iraq had faced sharp opposition from most regional and international actors, many of whom had warned that the poll would only further destabilize the Middle East.

According to figures released by the Erbil-based Kurdish Regional Government, almost 93 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of independence from Baghdad.

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