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US asks Kurds to postpone their independence referendum

Referendum distracts from 'more urgent priorities', State Department says

The US says the Kurds should wait before they vote for independence. Photo: Shutterstock

The US says the Kurds should wait before they vote for independence. Photo: Shutterstock

The United States has asked Iraq's Kurds to postpone a referendum on the independence of their autonomous Kurdish region, planned for September 25, the Kurdish presidency said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the request on Friday, during a phone call with the president of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani.

The US State Department said in June it was concerned that the referendum will distract from "more urgent priorities" such as the defeat of Islamic State militants.

"On the issue of the postponement of the referendum, the President (Barzani) stated that the people of the Kurdistan Region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future," said the statement issued by the Kurdish presidency after Tillerson's call, giving no further details on the Kurdish leader's reaction to the US request.

The United States and other Western nations are concerned that the vote could turn into another regional flashpoint. Turkey, Iran and Syria, which together with Iraq have sizeable Kurdish populations, all oppose an independent Kurdistan.

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