Iraqi government reportedly threatening Kurdish-held oil city

Newroz Nowruz 2017 Kurdish new year Persian

English edition of Asharq Al-Awsat - the world's premier pan-Arab daily.

Iraq's prime minister on Tuesday warned the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) against mobilizing their armed Peshmerga forces in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk, Anadolu Agency reports.

Al-Abadi said: "I warn of the actions of the region's military mobilization in Kirkuk, it is unsafe".

Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and Erbil since September 25, when Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas - and in a handful of disputed areas - voted to declare political independence.

"Iraqi armed force are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014", a general told AFP by telephone, asking not to be identified.

"We are not going to use our army to fight our people or to make war on our Kurdish citizens or others", Haider al-Abadi said.

The Kurds have repeatedly called for negotiations following the referendum in which an overwhelming majority voted for independence.

The vice president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, Kosrat Rasul, said "tens of thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga and security forces are already stationed in and around Kirkuk".

Iraqi Kurdish forces closed the two main roads connecting Erbil and Dohuk with Mosul for several hours on Thursday due to "fears of a possible attack by Iraqi forces on the disputed areas".

Lt. Gen. Wasta Rasul said Friday his forces evacuated positions southwest of the city, while an officer in the Iraqi Army's 9th Armored Division said his forces had moved into positions left by the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, in the same area.

"Their order is to defend at any cost", Hemin Hawrami said.

A Kurdish commander says his forces have withdrawn from the edges of a disputed region in northern Iraq amid tensions with the central government over the administration of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

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