Kurdish president calls for vote on independence
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says U.S. believes Iraq is ‘stronger if united’ after Kurdish leader urged for referendum
The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to set a date for a referendum on independence from Iraq, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.
Farhad Sofi, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), also told Reuters that Barzani asked the parliament to “to form an independent electoral commission to carry out a referendum in the Kurdistan region and determine the way forward.”
Barzani did not offer a timetable on the proposed committee's work of organizing a referendum, several Kurdish lawmakers said.
However, the United States Thursday came out against Barazani’s call for an independence referendum, saying the only way the country could repel Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) radicals would be to stay united, Agence France-Presse reported.
The White House, which has been working behind the scenes to try to convince Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders to form a unified government in Baghdad, gave the idea a cool reception.
“The fact is that we continue to believe that Iraq is stronger if it is united,” AFP quoted White House spokesman Josh Earnest as saying.
“That is why the United States continues to support an Iraq that is democratic, pluralistic and unified and we are going to continue to urge all parties in Iraq to continue working together toward that objective,” Earnest said.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish leader blamed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the instability in Iraq.
“We warned Maliki six months ago about what's happening but he did not listen and these are the consequences,” Barzani reportedly told the Kurdish lawmakers.
“What we see today on the ground is due to the failure of Maliki's policy in Iraq,” he added, insisting that the Peshmerga force will not leave areas it has controlled last month.
Peshmerga moved in to seize the northern city of Kirkuk, and other disputed areas in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala, after the Maliki’s forces collapsed when rebels led by the Islamist militants launched a surprise onslaught last month.
Kirkuk and the other areas have mixed Arab and Kurdish population and their fate was supposed to be decided under Article 140 of the constitution in a referendum that never took place.