(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made a televised address on Sunday about the Kurdish referendum that his government opposes as anti-constitutional. The vote, he said, ''could lead to ethnic divisions, exposing (the Iraqis) to disastrous dangers that only God knows.''
Kurdish President Massoud Barzani dismissed the concern of Iraq's powerful neighbors, Iran and Turkey, that the vote could destabilize the region, committing to "respecting the laws on international boundaries" and not seek to redraw region's borders.
Iranian authorities stopped air traffic to the international airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, upon a request from Baghdad, Fars News Agency said.
Tehran and Ankara fear the spread of separatism to their own Kurds. Iran also supports Shi'ite groups who have been ruling or holding key security and government positions in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein.
The KRG has resisted calls to delay the referendum by the United Nations, the United States and Britain who fear it could distract from the war on Islamic State militants should it lead to unrest in disputed areas like multi-ethnic oil-rich Kirkuk.