Iraq govt forces in control of all 'disputed' areas: PM

US State Department urges Kurdish parties to work for united Iraq

In Irbil's Bazar — where families thronged the streets and fireworks filled the skies during the days leading up to and following the vote — the mood slowly began to sour earlier this month after Iraqi troops led by Baghdad retook the long disputed and oil-rich city of Kirkuk. An Iraqi Kurdish official is denying reports that Iraqi federal forces have taken control of the key border crossing between Turkey and Iraq's northern Kurdish region that's in a major dispute with Baghdad.

The leader of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region is stepping down after a failed push for independence.

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As Iraq's military crumbled in the face of Islamic State group advances in 2014, Kurdish forces took control of Kirkuk.

However, in a move to help defuse tensions with the Kurds, he said on Tuesday Baghdad would start paying "soon" the salaries of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and civil servants working for the KRG.

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"They (Baghdad) used the referendum as an excuse". Elections were scheduled for November 1 but were suspended after the loss of Kirkuk. Masoud Barzani held the referendum "for his own pride". It was prompted by a September referendum, regarded as illegal by Iraq and widely opposed by the global community, in which voters overwhelmingly chose Kurdish independence from Iraq. "We do not hope for any more instability in Iraq or in the region". Suggesting that Barzani's departure may yield greater Kurdish unity and improve the odds of a resolution with Baghdad, a USA official said: "We can't allow this tension to continue".

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday repeated his call for all border crossings to be handed over to federal authorities.

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Yet it is unclear if Sunday was the final curtain for Barzani, an ardent Kurdish nationalist since the age of 16 who took up the mantle of his father, the Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, after his death in 1979.

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