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Iraq's Kurdish Parliament to Redistribute Powers From Barzani

FILE- Massoud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdistan region's president, is pictured during an interview with Reuters in Irbil, Iraq, July 6, 2017.

The Iraqi Kurdish parliament will meet Sunday to redistribute powers away from President Massoud Barzani, who is under pressure to step down following an independence referendum last month.

The parliament had already decided to halt Barzani's governmental activities and, on Saturday, said it would read out a statement from Barzani during the upcoming meeting.

Despite securing an overwhelming "yes" vote in the independence referendum, Barzani finds himself in a tough position after Iraqi federal forces moved to reclaim territory near the city of Kirkuk.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the referendum illegal, and in response he sent his forces to retake control of disputed areas that were in control of the Kurds.

In recent days the government in Iraq's Kurdistan region offered to freeze the referendum results and start dialogue with the central government in Baghdad, but Abadi rejected that offer.

Abadi said in a statement his government would accept only an annulment of the referendum and respect for the country's constitution.

The areas retaken by Iraqi forces were mostly under Baghdad's control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish peshmerga fighters and coalition forces recaptured the land, and the Kurdistan region has since held them.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority had been clashing for several weeks in mostly low-level firefights until Friday, when they agreed to a cease-fire, and Kurdish forces abandoned the land they held, largely without resistance.

During a briefing Friday at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes "a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward."

"We're not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis," he said.