BAGHDAD - Kurdish peshmerga forces took control of production facilities at two northern Iraqi oilfields on Friday, replacing Arab workers with Kurdish personnel. The national oil ministry in Baghdad condemned the takeover at the Kirkuk and Bai Hassan fields and called on the Kurds to withdraw immediately to avoid "dire consequences." The move came a month after Kurdish forces took control of the nearby city of Kirkuk, following the withdrawal of Iraqi armed forces in the face of a lightning assault by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, who have seized large parts of north and west Iraq. The oil ministry accused the Kurds of "a violation of the constitution and national wealth."
Political tensions are running high between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish leaders, who have pulled out of Maliki's Shiite-led government. Kurdish President Massoud Barzani last week also asked the parliament of the autonomous Kurdish region to plan a referendum on Kurdish independence. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who is a Kurd, warned Friday that the country risked falling apart if a new inclusive government is not formed soon. Iraq "is now divided literally into three states - Kurdish; a black state (ISIS) and Baghdad," he added.
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