Iraq parliament sacks Kirkuk governor amid row over Kurd independence



BAGHDAD, Kadhem al-Attabi and Ramadan Al-Fatash (dpa) - The Iraqi parliament voted on Thursday to dismiss the governor of Kirkuk, who is backing a controversial independence referendum in the autonomous region of Kurdistan set for later this month.
Kirkuk is an oil-rich region at the centre of a long-standing dispute between Kurdistan and Baghdad.
The vote to sack Najmiddin Karim came in response to a request from the government, a parliamentary source said, without giving further details.



Some 178 lawmakers in the 328-strong parliament voted for the move, pro-government member of parliament Jassim Mohammed said.
He added that Kurdish lawmakers had boycotted the vote.
Karim, a Kurd, called his sacking "invalid."
"The province's council is the only one that has the power to withdraw confidence and dismiss me," he added, according to Iraqi portal Alsumaria News.
In 2014, Kurdish forces seized ethnically mixed Kirkuk after Iraqi troops withdrew from the region in the face of a blitz attack by the Islamic State extremist militia in Iraq.
Last month, Kirkuk's provincial council voted to take part in Kurdistan's independence referendum due to be held on September 25.
Baghdad has condemned the referendum, calling it "unconstitutional."
A leading pro-government militiaman on Thursday warned that escalating tensions over Kurdistan's referendum could trigger a civil war in Iraq.
"I hope that everyone - the government and the region [Kurdistan] - will have a serious and realistic look at the issue of the referendum in order to head off sliding into a civil war," Hadi al-Amiri, the commander of the Shiite Badr militia, said in the southern city of Najaf.
The planned referendum has also alarmed Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - which are worried it will encourage their Kurdish minorities to split off.
The United States and other Western powers have expressed opposition to the vote, fearing it will fuel regional unrest and distract attention from ongoing campaigns to rout Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
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Friday, September 15th 2017
Kadhem al-Attabi and Ramadan Al-Fatash
           


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