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Iraqi PM Warns Of Military Intervention If Kurdish Referendum Turns Violent

A man holds a banner in favor Kurdistan independence ahead of a planned September 25 referendum.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi says Kurdish leaders planning to hold an independence referendum are "playing with fire" and said Baghdad was ready to intervene with force if violence erupts as a result of the vote.

Abadi on September 16 said if the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily."

Lawmakers in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region have approved a plan to hold a nonbinding independence referendum on September 25.

Iraq and neighboring countries, including Turkey and Iran, with large Kurdish minorities have vehemently opposed the referendum, and Western countries have expressed concerns the vote could ignite fresh tensions in the region.

"If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well, which is a very dangerous escalation," the Iraqi prime minister said.

He said the referendum could endanger gains made by the Kurdish population under agreements giving their oil-rich region a degree of autonomy.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters