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Kurds celebrate to show their support for the independence referendum in Duhok, Iraq, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government said on Monday it would seek to impose control over Kurdistan-based mobile phone operators and move their headquarters to the capital Baghdad.

The announcement followed a cabinet meeting attended by top security officials.

It is part of a series of measures taken against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, after a referendum on Kurdish independence held last month delivered an overwhelming yes vote for breaking away from Iraq.

The government statement didn't identify the networks but it is believed to be directed at Korek and Asiacell, based respectively in the KRG capital Erbil and the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya. Iraq's third operator, Zain, is based in Baghdad.

There was no details on how the measure would be implemented and whether their licenses would be withdrawn by the central government if they didn't comply.

"The government committee for national security issued a decision that all mobile phone networks must be under the federal control and should be moved to Baghdad," it said.

The Iraqi government, which considers the referendum against the constitution, has taken measures to isolate the KRG, including a ban on direct international flights to the region.

Neighbouring Iran and Turkey backed Baghdad's measure as they fear separatism spreading to their own Kurdish populations.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by John Stonestreet and Toby Chopra)

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