CAIRO — Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday a referendum on the independence of Iraq's Kurdish region would lead to a "catastrophic" break up of the country, which is facing an onslaught by Sunni Islamist militants.
The comments from Sisi, leader of the most populous Arab nation, indicate a growing fear in the region that the division of Iraq could further empower the insurgents who have declared a "caliphate" on land seized in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
"The referendum that the Kurds are asking for now is in reality no more than the start of a catastrophic division of Iraq into smaller rival states," Egypt's MENA news agency quoted Sisi as saying during a meeting with local journalists.
Sisi said he warned the United States and Europe about the ambitions of the Islamic State militants, which have shortened their name from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
"(ISIS) had a plan to take over Egypt," Sisi said. "I had warned the United States and Europe from providing any aid to them and told them they will come out of Syria to target Iraq then Jordan then Saudi Arabia."
- Analysis: Is Iraq's Sunni-Shiite Conflict Really About Religion?
- Iraq Says Footage Purporting to Show Islamic State Leader is False