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Iraqi Kurds Overwhelmingly Approve Independence in Referendum

  • VOA News

Election officials count ballots after the polls close in the controversial Kurdish referendum on independence from Iraq, in Irbil, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2017.

Official results from the Kurdish referendum, released Wednesday, show Iraqi Kurds voted “yes” on independence from Baghdad by an overwhelming 92 percent.

The Monday independence referendum drew objection from the government in Baghdad as well as neighboring countries and the United States.

Meanwhile, several Middle Eastern airlines say they will comply with an Iraqi order banning air travel in and out of airports in the Kurdish region.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he would order the flight ban if Kurdish leaders did not cede control of regional airports to federal authorities, which they have refused to do.

\Iraqi Kurdish men celebrate as they wave Kurdish flags in the streets after the polls closed in the controversial Kurdish referendum on independence from Iraq, in Irbil, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2017.
\Iraqi Kurdish men celebrate as they wave Kurdish flags in the streets after the polls closed in the controversial Kurdish referendum on independence from Iraq, in Irbil, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2017.


The chairman of Lebanon’s flagship carrier Middle East Airlines, Mohamad El-Hout, said the airline would halt all flights to and from Irbil after Friday. Egyptair also said it would halt flights between Cairo and Irbil on Friday.

Neighboring Iran, which has a large Kurdish population, has already stopped all flights to Iraq's Kurdish region.

Tuesday, Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani called for a “dialogue” with Iraqi authorities, who reject the non-binding vote as unconstitutional.

“Instead of harassment, let's have dialogue for a better future,'' he said, adding, “Negotiations are the right path to solve the problems, not threats or the language of force.”

The Kurds and the Iraqi government have long-running disputes over oil revenues and who controls several key cities in the region.

The Iranian and Turkish governments have expressed opposition to the independence referendum over fears it could boost similar separatist sentiment in their countries.

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