The leader of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region says he plans to hold a referendum within months to seek independence from Iraq.
Masoud Barzani said in an interview with BBC aired on Tuesday that recent events show it's the right of Kurdistan to achieve independence. He also said Iraq is already effectively partitioned.
His comments came as fighting continues between Iraq's government forces and Islamic militants.
The minority Kurds in the country's north have long been at odds with the Iraqi government over oil revenue and other issues.
Amid the conflict, Kurdish forces took effective control of Kirkuk, outside their autonomous region. The city has one of the country's largest oil fields.
Barzani stopped short of explaining how the referendum will be held. But his remark is expected to attract a sharp reaction from the Iraqi government. This could raise the possibility of the country's division.
Jul. 1, 2014 - Updated 19:45 UTC