Kirkuk governor says Iraqi parliament vote to remove him 'unlawful'

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Iraq's parliament on Thursday voted to remove the governor of Kirkuk, a staunch supporter of Kurdish independence, following a request from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi just days before a referendum on whether to split from Baghdad.

"I will stay in office", Kareem told Reuters, hours after the parliamentary vote.

The Iraqi parliament voted by a majority to remove Karim after the local government in the province made a decision to join the Kurdish referendum, less than two weeks from now.

The planned vote has faced strong opposition from the federal government in Baghdad as well as neighbouring Iran and Turkey, which fear it will stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizable Kurdish minorities.

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Iraqi Kurdistan has effectively been a semi-autonomous state since the fall of Saddam Hussein more than a decade ago, but support for full independence has always been opposed by Turkey, Iran and Syria, who fear it could fan separatist uprisings among their own ethnic Kurds.

The move came after Iraq's parliament voted to remove the governor of Kirkuk, a staunch supporter of Kurdish independence.

Karim said he will keep his post, adding he has received phone calls from Kurdish officials such as President Barzani who offered their support.

Ankara is also concerned about the presence of the Syrian Kurdish militia People's Protection Units (YPG) in the border area, fearing an autonomous Kurdish region could also emerge in northern Syria.

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The people of KRG, especially Kirkuk, will not be bound by the parliament's decision, a presidential statement said, adding the Kirkuk governor was elected to office and approved by the provincial council.

Suhail gave no details about what Kareem accused of.

"The escalating tactics this week by the Iraqis are causing a large public backlash, and will strengthen the Kurdish referendum enormously", Zebari said.

Hussein al-Maliki says that all Kurdish lawmakers boycotted Thursday's session, while Arab lawmakers voted in favor.

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Kurdistan Region's High Committee of Referendum announced earlier that the poll will be held on Sept 25.

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