Iraqi Kurds Abroad Begin Voting In Disputed Independence Referendum
Iraqi Kurds abroad began casting their ballots Saturday in a referendum on independence of the autonomous region of Kurdistan amid international opposition.
Kurdish expatriates in China were the first to vote, Karwan Jalal, an electoral official, told?Kurdish news portal Rudaw.
The online vote for Kurdish expatriates is open for three days, Shirwan Zirari, the spokesman for the Kurdistan election commission, said.
"Holding an Iraqi nationality document is necessary for the balloting," he told Iraqi website Alsumaria News.
The exact number?of Iraqi Kurds abroad is?not known, he added.
The referendum is scheduled for Monday in Kurdistan and other disputed areas between Erbil and Baghdad, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
These areas are currently under military Kurdish control.Baghdad is vehemently opposed to the vote, calling it unconstitutional.
The referendum has raised alarm of Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - over concerns it could encourage their own Kurdish minorities to splinter.
Turkey has warned it may impose sanctions on Kurdistan over the plebiscite.
The UN has warned of the vote's "potentially destabilizing effect," while the US has said it could fuel regional unrest and distract attention from ongoing campaigns to rout Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
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