Iraqi Kurdish president Masoud Barzani speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq September 24, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said on Tuesday that Kurds had voted “yes” to independence in a referendum held in defiance of the government in Baghdad and which had angered their neighbors and their U.S. allies.
The Kurds, who have ruled over an autonomous region within Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, consider Monday’s referendum to be an historic step in a generations-old quest for a state of their own.
Iraq considers the vote unconstitutional, especially as it was held not only within the Kurdish region itself but also on disputed territory held by Kurds elsewhere in northern Iraq.
The United States, major European countries and neighbors Turkey and Iran strongly opposed the decision to hold the referendum, which they described as destabilizing at a time when all sides are still fighting against Islamic State militants.
In a televised address, …
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