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Iran Denies Shutting Border Crossings With Northern Iraq

Kurdish officials empty ballots from a box after the close of polls during a disputed referendum on independence on September 25.

Iran denies reports that it has closed border crossings with northern Iraq in response to an independence referendum in the autonomous Kurdish region last month.

"As we announced earlier, we blocked our airspace to the Kurdish region on a request from the central government of Iraq, and as far as I know, nothing new has happened in this area," the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying on October 15.

Iran's Tasnim news agency earlier reported that Iranian authorities had closed the Bashmakh border crossing with Iraq's Kurdish region.

Meanwhile, Shakhwan Abu Bakr, a customs official on the Kurdish side of the border, said that the Islamic republic had closed its three border crossings with the region.

According to a local Kurdish TV report, a Kurdish Peshmerga commander has said that Iranian revolutionary guards are present among Iraqi government troops and militias facing Kurdish forces near Kirkuk.

Reuters reports that Iran's Qods force commander, Ghasem Soleimani has visited Suleimaniyeh to negotiate with the two sides about the crisis.

Tensions have been on the rise since Iraqi Kurds on September 25 voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum that the Baghdad government refused to acknowledge.

Neighbors Iran and Turkey, which have large Kurdish minorities, also vehemently opposed the referendum.

Tehran has halted flights to and from the Kurdish region and carried out military exercises near the Kurdish border.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP