Iraqi army denies reports of operations south of Kirkuk

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Mr Hawrami urged the global community to intervene and call on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to "order PMF to pull back if he can or if they listen to him".

According to the region's vice president Kosrat Rasul, Iraqi Kurdistan will send 6,000 Peshmerga troops to the province of Kirkuk due to alleged plans by the Iraqi government to launch an offensive to regain control over the area.

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 on whether or not to declare political independence.

KRG authorities have repeatedly called for negotiations since the referendum, in which an overwhelming majority voted for independence.

But Baghdad has said the Kurds must disavow the referendum result as a pre-condition for any talks.

However, The Iraqi military command, in a statement, denied the Iraqi army was launching an operation to retake the city.

Iraq's tough line towards the Kurds has the support of neighbours Turkey and Iran, which strongly oppose the secessionist movement given their own sizable Kurdish minorities.

The Kurds took control of Kirkuk when the Islamic State group swept across northern Iraq in 2014 as the Iraqi military crumbled.

Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council issued arrest warrants on Wednesday for the chairman of the Kurdish referendum commission and two aides for "violating a valid court ruling" banning the independence vote as against the Constitution.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is expected to visit Baghdad on Sunday to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi.

The Kirkuk province along with parts of the provinces of Nineveh, Saladin (northern Iraq) and Diyala (eastern Iraq) are disputed between Baghdad and the KRG and inhabited by a mixture of ethnic Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen.

The area around al-Qaim, near the Syrian border, is the last part of Iraq still under the control of IS, which overran a third of the country in 2014 but has been driven back by a series of Iraqi military offensives with US support. "The imposition of a status quo by force over the disputed areas is unacceptable".

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