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Referendum on independent Kurdistan puts Iran at crossroads

While Iran is the only country that has long enjoyed close ties with Iraqi Kurds, the upcoming referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurdistan puts it at a crossroads.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani  in Arbil, north of Baghdad, August 26, 2014. Iran supplied weapons and ammunition to Iraqi Kurdish forces, Barzani said Tuesday at a joint news conference with Zarif in Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.  REUTERS/Azad Lashkari (IRAQ - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST) - RTR43T95
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As Iraqi Kurds try to iron out internal differences ahead of their referendum on independence in September, Turkey, Iraq and Iran have all announced their opposition, questioning the timing and fearing the implications of such a move at a time when regional rivalries are at their peak.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran opposes some murmurs about holding a referendum in order to separate one part of Iraq," said Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in June, adding that Iraq "should stay unified."

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