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Iraq rejects Kurds' offer to suspend independence drive as it launches new push for territory

An offer by Kurdistan’s leaders to “freeze” their plans for independence have been rejected outright by Iraq’s prime minister, who ordered his forces to push yet further into territory held by the Kurds.  Iraq's central government "will accept only the cancelling of the referendum," Haider al-Abadi said in a statement on Thursday, warning he would protect the unity of Iraq with “high precision." Appearing to reject the olive branch, Iraqi troops launched an offensive against Kurdish fighters near the border with Turkey and Syria. The Fishkhabour and Habur border crossings are vital trading routes for Kurdistan as they host the pipelines through which they export hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil to Turkey.  “Iraq’s back in civil war,” Aziz Ahmad, an adviser to the chancellor of the Kurdistan Region's security council, said. “Today's attack deepens public resentment in Kurdistan (…) in the next 24 hours Abadi will have squandered the world’s support.” Iraqi Kurds wave flags and chant slogans during a protest outside the US Consulate on October 21, 2017 in Erbil, Iraq.  Credit: Getty Sporadic fighting has erupted over the past week between Kurdish and Iraqi forces, former allies in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), as government forces with allied mostly Shia militias retook the contested areas, including the city of Kirkuk. After days of largely low-level clashes, Kurdish leaders on Wednesday offered to suspend the September vote results to facilitate talks with Baghdad and end the violence. Should the border crossing fall back into Iraq’s hand, not only would Iraqi Kurds lose a main trading route, the US-led coalition could lose access to its allies in Syria battling Isil. The spokesman for the coalition said recent fighting has impeded the movement of its military equipment in both Iraq and Syria, negatively impacting the campaign against the jihadist group. Mr Abadi’s statement came as he met with Iranian officials in Tehran.  Iran increasingly has moved into a prominent role in Iraq, a Shia-majority nation, especially in guiding militias against Isil.  Donald Trump’s administration has looked to try to limit Iran’s influence in the Middle East with little success. For years, Baghdad has carefully avoided antagonising either Washington or Tehran. But the confrontation between the Iraqi central government and its Kurdish minority has threatened to tip the balance in Iran's favour.  Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi in Tehran Credit: Reuters Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Mr Abadi about US policy toward Iraq during their meeting on Thursday, saying: "Be careful about Americans’ deceit and never trust them." Kurdish leaders, who had enjoyed the support of the US during the battle against Isil around Mosul, now say they have been abandoned by their allies to fend for themselves against better-resourced Iraqi troops.  “This behaviour continues because the US-led Global Coalition fails to apply the pressure necessary to stop Iraq’s aggressive military attacks,” the Kurdistan security council said in a statement. “We call on the international community to intervene immediately to stop Iraq’s reckless behaviour.” Washington has offered to broker talks between both sides, but has also stressed its support for “unity” in Iraq. 

'Woman in red' becomes symbol of Turkey protests

In her red cotton summer dress, necklace and white bag slung over her

shoulder she might have been floating across the lawn at a garden party;

but before her crouches a masked policeman firing teargas spray that

sends her long hair billowing upwards. Endlessly shared on social media

and replicated as a cartoon on posters and stickers, the image of the

woman in red has become the leitmotif for female protesters during days

of violent anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul.(Reuters)