WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is discouraging Iraqi Kurdistan’s planned independence referendum set for later this year. It says the vote will be a distraction from more urgent priorities, including the fight against the Islamic State group.

The State Department said Thursday that the U.S. understands and appreciates the “legitimate aspirations” of Iraqi Kurds, but stressed it also supports a unified, federal Iraq of which the autonomous northern region is part.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert says U.S. officials have told the Kurds that holding even a nonbinding independence referendum now would complicate the anti-IS campaign. She says it also would complicate attempts to restore stability and economic prosperity and efforts to return displaced populations to the region.

Iraqi Kurdish officials say an independence referendum will be held on Sept. 25.

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MATTHEW LEE
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