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Nov 20, 3:54 AM EST

Iraqi court opens way for Kurds to annul independence vote


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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's top court has paved the way for the self-ruled northern Kurdish region to step back from its controversial independence referendum and annul the vote's results that overwhelmingly backed secession from Baghdad.

The Supreme Federal Court on Monday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that said the Sept. 25 referendum was unconstitutional and that its results are to be annulled.

In the crisis that followed the vote, Baghdad had demanded the Kurds annul its results before negotiations could start between the Iraqi central government and the self-ruled Kurdish region.

The referendum, though non-binding, was rejected by Baghdad and Iraq's neighbors. It was also criticized by the U.S. and the U.N. In the wake of the vote, Iraqi federal forces seized the northern city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas from the Kurds.

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