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Kurdish leadership to discuss US-backed ‘alternative’ to referendum Sunday

2017/09/17 | 12:25

(Iraq Now News)- ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan’s High Referendum Council that is headed by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani is to convene on Sunday afternoon to discuss various issues related to the historic referendum on independence including a US-backed alternative in place of the referendum, an official told Rudaw.

Expectations are low, as President Barzani ruled out on Saturday that a convincing alternative exists while asking the people of Kurdistan to cast their votes on September 25.

Sadiq Jabari, a member of the Council that provides political cover to the vote, said that in addition to discussing the alternative, they will also discuss the Thursday vote by the Iraqi parliament to sack Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim.

This will be the first such meeting after the Kurdish parliament voted Friday in a majority to back an earlier decision by the Referendum Council that set the date of the vote in the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani or disputed areas which are claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad such as the oil-rich and multi-ethnic Kirkuk province.

Speaking at a rally for an independence vote in Duhok on Saturday, Barzani said, “To this date, we still have not received the alternative that could take the place of the referendum, and therefore cast your votes on September 25, and take your decision.”

He earlier said that day the time had passed for an alternative to replace the independence vote on September 25.

“We said before, but the time is now late for that, that if there was a better and more guaranteed alternative in place of referendum ...

then we welcome that.

But nobody did that.

Nobody brought a better alternative,” Barzani told people in the Nineveh Plains attending an event in support of the referendum.

The Referendum Council consists of three major Kurdish parties plus minor parties including members of the minorities such as Christians and Turkmens, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union, the two ruling parties are the real drive behind the Kurdish plans to hold the vote plus the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), despite the opposition from Baghdad, Turkey, Iran, and the world powers such as the US, UK and Germany.

Mala Bakhtiyar, a senior PUK official, told reporters on Saturday that his party is of the belief that the Kurdish leadership should take the alternative offered “very seriously.”

The UN, UK, and the US met on Wednesday with President Barzani during which they presented an alternative in order to convince the Kurdish leadership to call off the vote.

A Kurdish official said that while Barzani did not see the offer viable, he told the three sides that the final decision lies with all the parties of Kurdistan.

Mohammed Haji Mahmud, the secretary-general of the Kurdistan Socialists Party who is also close to Barzani, has said that they asked Erbil to postpone the vote for two years during which they promised to discuss the issue of the Kurdish bid for independence in the United Nations.

Iraqi parliament voted this week against the vote calling it a “threat” against Iraq’s unity.

It also tasked Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take “all measures” to cancel the referendum that will take place only eight days from now.

PM Abadi told The Associated Press on Saturday that his government is ready to use military force against Erbil if referendum results in violence.

If the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily," said Abadi, who is commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces.

President Barzani has said while they do not plan to initiate an attack, have said time and again that they will make use of their right to self-defense.

Also Bakhtiyar, from the PUK, demanded Baghdad Tuesday to respect a US-backed agreement between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments that stipulates the Iraqi army will not intervene over their disputes.










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