Iraq Kurds warn of 'imminent' offensive by pro-government forces
Iraqi Kurdistan has warned of an "imminent" offensive from government troops and allied militias after they shelled Peshmerga positions.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement on Thursday that Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilisation forces launched the attack from Zummar in northern Nineveh province.
"We are alarmed by intelligence signaling an imminent attack by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces in North West of Mosul," the statement said.
"In the last six days, Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed PMF have deployed heavy weapons in preparations for this major attack,"
"Their continued deployment and use of heavy equipment, including many American, signals intent to use military means to settle political disputes," it adds.
Iraq's prime minister on Thursday dismissed a Kurdish proposal to "freeze" the results of last month's independence vote.
Haider al-Abadi's office released the comments as he met with Iran's supreme leader and other officials in Tehran.
Both Iran and neighbouring Turkey opposed the referendum, and have sided with Baghdad in the escalating dispute.
Iraq's central government "will accept only the cancelling of the referendum and following the constitution," Abadi said in the statement, rebuffing what appeared to be an attempt by Kurdish leaders to save face.
More than 90 percent voted in favour of independence from Iraq in last month's non-binding referendum, which Kurdish leaders had billed as an opening bid in negotiations with Baghdad over expanded autonomy.
Instead, federal forces responded by retaking Kirkuk and other disputed areas outside the Kurds' autonomous region.
Most Kurdish forces have withdrawn without a fight, but scattered clashes have broken out, pitting two close US allies against each other.