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An old Kurdish man walks in the old city of Erbil, Iraq September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

(reuters_tickers)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States "strongly opposes" the planned independence referendum by Iraqi Kurds and urges Iraqi Kurdish leaders to engage in negotiations with the Baghdad government instead, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

In the most forceful U.S. statement so far opposing the referendum, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "The United States strongly opposes the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s referendum on independence, planned for September 25."

(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Reuters