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Iran, Iraq Hold Joint Drill Near Iraqi Kurdish Region


Iraqi soldiers also took part in a Turkish military drill close to Iraq's frontier last week.

Iran says its military has held a joint military drill with the Iraqi armed forces amid tensions over a recent referendum on independence in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

The Iranian military announced on its website on October 2 joint military exercises in the country's western border area with units of the Iraqi Army involving armor and artillery units as well as other air units.

In its report about the exercises, the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted the commander of the ground forces of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Pakpour, as saying that "Iran and Iraq have common enemies and they need to ensure the security of their own borders against threats."

Meanwhile, an official in Iraq's Kurdish region said that Iraqi and Iranian units began exercises at 11 a.m. local time "only 250 meters from the border."

"Iraqi forces are dressed in black and there is a large number of Iranian forces," said Shwan Abu Bakr, the customs chief at the Bashmakh border post between Iraq's Kurdish region and Iran.

Election authorities in Iraq's Kurdish region say the September 25 nonbinding referendum on independence passed with 92.7 percent support and turnout of more than 72 percent.

Along with the Baghdad government, the United States and other Western powers and the United Nations opposed the vote, as did neighboring Turkey and Iran, which have large Kurdish populations.

On September 30, Iranian armed forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri told reporters that the exercises would be held "in the coming days along the shared border."

Jazayeri said the decision to carry out the drills followed a high-level meeting of Iranian commanders where "the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and the illegitimacy of the independence referendum in northern Iraq were stressed again."

Iraqi soldiers last week also took part in a Turkish military drill close to Iraq's frontier.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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