Iraqi Kurdish leader visits disputed northern areas amid tension with Baghdad

A senior Kurdish military commander says the president of Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region has visited Kurdish troops in disputed areas near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Brig. Gen. Shirko Rauof says Massoud Barzani met soldiers in two areas near Kirkuk on Monday and urged them to be on high alert but avoid any escalation with nearby forces belonging to the central government. Control over the surrounding area is disputed by Iraqi Arabs, Turkomen and Kurds.

The visit comes amid tension between Baghdad and the Kurds following a decision by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form a new military command to oversee security forces bordering the Kurdish region. The move has angered the Kurds.