BAGHDAD — The Latest on developments in Iraq (all times local):
The Kurdish leadership is saying that Iraqi troops have launched “an offensive” against Kurdish fighters near the border with Turkey.
From Baghdad, a spokesman for the mostly Shiite militia fighters known as the Popular Mobilization Forces says the Kurdish troops opened fire on the Baghdad-led forces as they moved toward the Iraqi Turkish border on Thursday.
The development is part of a recent government push to deploy forces in areas claimed by both the Kurds and the central government in Baghdad.
The spokesman, Ahmed al-Asadi, told The Associated Press that the clashes did not result in any casualties.
The statement from the Kurdish regional government says the Iraqi forces were “using heavy artillery… advancing toward peshmerga positions.”
Sporadic clashes have erupted over the past two weeks as Iraqi government forces moved to retake territory that was under federal control before the Islamic State group blitzed across the country in 2014.
The moves follow a controversial referendum last month in which the majority of Kurds voted for independence from Baghdad.
Iraq’s prime minister says he’ll only accept a full cancellation of the Kurdish independence vote and its results, dismissing a proposal by the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region to freeze the referendum results pending negotiations with Baghdad.
Haider al-Abadi says the central government “will accept only the cancelling of the referendum and following the constitution,” according to a written statement released by his office.
Al-Abadi’s announcement comes during a visit to Iran on Thursday.
The Kurds’ referendum last month overwhelmingly backed independence from Baghdad. Though the vote was non-binding, it has roiled tensions with the central government and the region.
Sporadic clashes have erupted over the past week between Kurdish and Iraqi forces, former allies in the battle against the Islamic State group.
Iraqi Kurdish leaders on Wednesday offered to freeze the referendum results in order to facilitate talks with Baghdad and end the violence.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in Iran after recent stops in Turkey and Jordan, and meetings with U.S. officials and allies eager to pull Baghdad into their political orbit.
He first attended an official reception at a government estate north of Tehran and is meeting with Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri on Thursday.
Regional issues and bilateral ties are expected to dominate the agenda, as well as the Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum last month that both Baghdad and Tehran have dismissed as illegal.
Iran remains a major player in the war against the Islamic State group and culturally across Iraq, its one-time bitter enemy when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein waged an eight year war on Iran in 1980s that left more than one million casualties on both sides.
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