Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, seated next to a Kurdish flag, looks on during a press conference in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 22, 2017. / AFP / SAFIN HAMED
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The Iraqi government ruled out talks on possible secession for Kurdish-held parts of northern Iraq on Tuesday after a referendum on independence showed strong support for a split.Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani says the vote is not binding, but meant to provide a mandate for negotiations with Baghdad and neighbouring countries over the peaceful secession of the region from Iraq.The Kurds held the vote despite threats from Baghdad and Iraq's powerful neighbours, Iran and Turkey, to block it.Iraqi Kurds -- part of the largest ethnic group left stateless when the Ottoman empire collapsed a century ago -- say the referendum acknowledges their contribution in confronting Daesh (ISIS) after it overwhelmed the Iraqi army in 2014 and seized control of a third of Iraq.With 30 million ethnic Kurds scattered across the region, mainly in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, governments fear the spread of separatism to their own Kurdish populations.
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