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Kurds block Iraqi forces' access to Kirkuk oil fields, Iran closes borders

Staff Writer |
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters rejected a warning from an Iraqi paramilitary force to withdraw from a strategic junction south of Kirkuk, which controls access to some of the region's main oilfields, a Kurdish security official said.

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Iran meanwhile shut its border crossings with Iraq's Kurdistan in support of measures taken by the Iraqi government to isolate the Kurdish region, the Iraqi foreign ministry said.

The border closing came as an Iranian military official arrived in Iraq's Kurdistan for talks on the growing crisis between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi government following last month's Kurdish independence referendum.

The Baghdad central government has taken a series of steps to isolate the autonomous Kurdish region since its vote for independence, including banning international flights.

Baghdad's tough line, ruling out talks sought by the Kurds unless they renounce the breakaway move, is backed by neighbours Turkey and Iran - both with their own sizeable Kurdish minorities, and in Turkey's case, a long-running Kurdish insurgency.

The top Kurdish leadership met on Sunday to discuss the crisis and rejected the Iraqi government's demand that it cancels the outcome of the independence referendum as a precondition for talks to resolve the dispute.

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