The Latest: Iraq recaps opposition to planned Kurdish vote

September 23, 2017 GMT
Iraq's Minister for Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Abdulkarim Al-Jafari speaks during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Iraq's Minister for Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Abdulkarim Al-Jafari speaks during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Latest on the United Nations General Assembly (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

Iraq’s top diplomat is reiterating its government’s opposition to Iraqi Kurds’ planned independence vote next week.

Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told the U.S. General Assembly on Saturday that the central government views the vote as unconstitutional and divisive.

He says the government wants “to preserve the unity of Iraq.”

The Kurds are an ethnic group with populations in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. They have long aspired to statehood in Iraq, where they have an autonomous region.

Iraq’s top court has temporarily suspended the vote, and the country’s parliament has also voted to reject it. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has even said he’s prepared to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.

Kurdish officials have said the vote will be held nonetheless.



5:35 p.m.

Iraq’s foreign minister is asking nuclear countries for help building a nuclear reactor, saying the country has a right to use nuclear power peacefully as a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the request in his speech Saturday to the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting.

Former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s previous efforts to build a nuclear reactor were met with an Israeli bombing in 1981 and years of suspicion about his intentions.

The NPT, which Iraq ratified in 1969, sought to prevent the spread of atomic arms beyond the five original nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China.

Al-Jaafari said Saturday that based on this right under the NPT, Iraq calls for help from our “kindred, nuclear countries.”



3:30 p.m.

North Korea’s foreign minister says U.S. President Donald Trump’s insult calling leader Kim Jong Un “rocket man” makes “our rocket’s visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more.”

Ri Yong Ho called the American leader “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency” with his finger on the “nuclear button” and declared: “None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission.”

And he told world leaders on Saturday: “In case innocent lives of the U.S. are lost because of this suicide attack, Trump will be held totally responsible.”

Ri’s highly anticipated speech to the General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting fueled the fiery rhetoric between the U.S. president and North Korea’s young leader.

Trump threatened in his speech to the 193-member world body Tuesday to “totally destroy” the North if provoked. Kim, in an unusual direct statement to the world, responded pledging to take “highest-level” action against the United States.

Ri suggested to reporters Friday in New York that the country could conduct an atmospheric hydrogen bomb test to fulfill Kim’s vows. But he did not make any mention of such a test on Saturday.

Ri said: “Our national nuclear force is, to all intents and purposes, a war deterrent for putting an end to nuclear threat of the U.S. and for preventing its military invasion, and our ultimate goal is to establish the balance of power with the U.S.”


12:30 p.m.

Syria’s foreign minister says his country is “marching steadily” toward the goal of rooting out terrorism — and “victory is now within reach.”

Walid Al-Moualem pointed to “the liberation of Aleppo and Palmyra,” the end of the Islamic State extremist group’s siege of Deir el-Zour, and what he said was “the eradication of terrorism from many parts of Syria.”

He told the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting on Saturday he is confident that when the more than six-year war ends “the Syrian army will go down in history” for defeating “the terrorists that came to Syria from many countries and received large support from the most powerful countries of the world.”

Al-Moualem said that while the army and its allies “are making daily achievements, clearing out territories and uprooting terrorists ... the threat of this plague persists.”

On the political front, he said local reconciliation agreements have allowed tens of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees to return home. He said “Syria is determined to scale up reconciliation efforts, whenever possible.”



The leader of Dominica is asking world leaders to lend his hurricane-ravaged nation military equipment to help it rebuild.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit urged the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday to “let these extraordinary events elicit extraordinary efforts to rebuild nations sustainably.”

Hurricane Maria swept over Dominica on Monday with 160 mph winds, killing 15 people. People around the world followed Skerrit’s gripping Facebook posts as he described his roof being torn off and his home filling with water.

On Saturday, he said “the desolation is beyond imagination” in the Caribbean island nation. And he made an impassioned case for the world to do more to help vulnerable countries cope with the effects of global warming. Scientists have long predicted extreme weather would rise with temperatures.


11:15 a.m.

South Sudan’s first vice president says the government is confident that peace will soon return to the world’s newest nation after nearly four years of civil war.

Tabo Deng Gai told the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting on Saturday that “there will be challenges and reversals, but the big picture should be the movement” toward peace.

He said the government is “confident that soon violence and wars shall be stories of the past.” But fighting between President Salva Kiir’s forces and opposition troops loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar shows no signs of ending.

The conflict that began in December 2013 has killed tens of thousands and sent about 2 million people fleeing the country.

Deng Gai cited a number of factors in the government’s optimism.

Those include the gradual return of refugees and internally displaced people to their villages and steps within communities “indicating direction of co-existing and living in harmony.”

He also cited “strong and steady progress” on the government’s commitment to address political and security issues “with the view of creating an enabling environment for dialogue.”

These include releasing prisoners including journalists, reaching out to opposition figures, including all major “stakeholders” in a steering committee, and declaring a unilateral cease-fire, which Kiir did in May.


10 a.m.

Congo President Joseph Kabila says a timeline for his country’s delayed and highly anticipated presidential election should be released “soon.”

Kabila said Saturday at the U.N. General Assembly that Congo is moving toward elections with “undeniable tenacity.” He appealed to the international community to back the process.

He says 42 million of a projected 45 million voters have already registered. He notes the process recently began in the last area to open registration, the bloody Kasai region.

Congo’s electoral commission has said the delay in starting registration in Kasai means the election can’t be held this year. The government and opposition had agreed to hold the vote by the end of 2017.

The opposition has accused Kabila of delaying the vote to stay in power. His mandate ended in December.