Kirkuk’s provincial council on Tuesday condemned a recent decision by the Iraqi parliament to remove Kirkuk Governor Najmiddin Karim from office.
“Karim was elected and confirmed in his position by the provincial council and only the council has the authority to remove him,” council head Ribwar al-Talabani declared at a press conference.
Last week, Iraqi lawmakers voted in favor of removing Karim from his post. The parliamentary vote was based on a request by Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.
Despite the parliamentary decision, however, Karim has yet to leave office.
The parliamentary vote was prompted by an Aug. 29 decision by Kirkuk’s provincial council to include the disputed province in next week’s referendum on Kurdish regional independence.
The decision -- taken in the absence of Arab and Turkmen council members -- triggered an uproar in Baghdad and calls by Iraqi politicians and MPs to remove Karim from office.
Slated for Sept. 25, the non-binding referendum will see residents of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from Baghdad.
On Monday, Iraq’s Supreme Court ruled to suspend all activities related to the referendum until it could determine the poll’s constitutionality.
Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all joined Baghdad in speaking out against the poll, saying the vote would distract from operations against Daesh and lead to greater instability in the region.
Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani, meanwhile, has said a “yes” vote would not initiate an automatic declaration of independence but would lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.
*Reporting by Hussein al-Amir; Writing by Mahmoud Barakat