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Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum, Iraq closes borders

Staff Writer |
People in Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan are voting in an independence referendum, amid rising tensions and international opposition.

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Polls opened at 05:00 GMT with balloting also taking place in the disputed areas between the northern city of Erbil and the capital Baghdad, as well as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which is ethnically mixed.

The central government in Baghdad, which strongly opposes the referendum, sought control of the region's international border posts and airports on Sunday, in anticipation of Monday's vote.

Iraq's government has also called on foreign countries to stop importing oil from the Kurdish region and to deal with them instead.

Iran has shut its border with Iraqi Kurdistan in response to its independence referendum, the foreign ministry said Monday.

"At the request of the Iraqi government, we have closed our land and air borders" with Iraqi Kurdistan, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said at a press conference.

The referendum is "illegal and illegitimate," he added.

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