Iraqi Kurdistan president visits forces in Kirkuk

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Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, inspected Kurdish peshmerga security forces in the disputed north Iraq province of Kirkuk on Monday, a Kurdish general said.

The visit may increase already-high tension with Baghdad, which has seen both sides deploy military reinforcements to areas in north Iraq.

“The president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq (Barzani) inspected peshmerga units located on the outskirts of Kirkuk” city, the capital of the province of the same name, peshmerga brigade commander Major General Shirko Rauf told AFP.

According to Rauf, Barzani emphasised to peshmerga forces “the importance of maintaining brotherhood and peace and serving all the (residents) of Kirkuk.”

The province is part of a swathe of territory in north Iraq that Kurdish leaders want to incorporate into their autonomous region, over Baghdad's strong objections.

The dispute over territory in northern Iraq is the biggest threat to the country’s long-term stability, diplomats and officials say. Ties between Baghdad and Kurdistan are also marred by disputes over oil and power-sharing.
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