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Iran’s top Sunni cleric backs Iraq’s integrity, unity

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iran’s prominent Sunni cleric Molavi Abdul Hamid

Iran’s prominent Sunni cleric Molavi Abdul Hamid has voiced his objection to the potential secession of the northern Kurdistan region from Iraqi mainland, urging the Kurdish people to maintain their unity.

“The territorial integrity and independence of Muslim countries are vital and important,” Abdul Hamid said in an address to Sunni worshipers during the weekly Friday Prayers in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan.

He emphasized that the rights of people of different faiths and ethnicities living in one country must be protected; however, their homeland’s territorial integrity and independence must not be undermined and no geographical change must be made.

The senior cleric also warned of enemies’ plots to break up Muslim countries, including Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

“Enemies are hatching plots to partition Iran and many other countries and seek to turn Muslim countries into small states,” Abdul Hamid said.

In defiance of Iraq’s stiff opposition, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a non-binding referendum on September 25 on secession from the central government in Baghdad. Kurdish officials said over 90 percent of the voters said ‘Yes’ to separation from Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds take part in a demonstration at Erbil airport after the central government ordered the indefinite halt to all foreign flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan on September 29, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

With the exception of Israel, all major regional and international parties have voiced serious concerns over the secessionist move, saying it would compound the problems of the country, which is already busy with counterterrorism operations against Daesh.

Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also on Friday voiced opposition to the Kurdistan’s separation, warning of the negative repercussions of such “unilateral steps.”

Tensions have been running high between the central Iraqi government and the Kurdish leadership over the vote, which has prompted Baghdad and regional states to take a number of punitive measures against the semi-autonomous region.

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