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Iran Criticizes Independence Vote In Iraq's Kurdistan Region

The Kurdish flag flies over the Irbil Citadel in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Iran has voiced its opposition to a decision by Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum on independence, saying the vote would lead to "new problems."

"The Kurdistan region is part of the Iraqi republic and unilateral decisions outside the national and legal framework, especially the Iraqi constitution... can only lead to new problems," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on June 10.

Iraqi Kurdish officials said on June 7 that the region would hold a referendum on September 25, a move unlikely to be welcomed by the federal government in Baghdad.

Iran fears separatism among its own Kurds, most of whom live in areas along the border with Iraq.

Iran is home to an estimated eight million Kurds, who like other ethnic minorities in the country, do not enjoy equal rights, such as the right to the use of their languages in schools.

Rebels of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) launch sporadic attacks into Iran from rear-bases in Iraq, triggering sometimes deadly clashes with Iranian security forces.

Iraqi Kurds' planned referendum has also been criticized by Turkey, which called it a "grave mistake."

Washington also said it was opposed to the vote, saying it would be a distraction from more urgent priorities, including the fight against the extremist group Islamic State.

Based on reporting by AFP and