The Latest: Kurd leader says referendum will go forward

The Latest on developments in Iraq (all times local):

6:20 p.m.

The President of Iraq's Kurdish region says the controversial referendum on support for independence will go forward Monday, despite increasingly urgent calls from the international community to delay the vote.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands in Irbil on Friday, Masoud Barzani says the fight against the Islamic State group in partnership with the Iraqi military will "continue" despite the vote.

The comments follow a warning from the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that the vote could have a "potentially destabilizing" impact on the region.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces are continuing to clear the last pockets of territory that IS holds in Iraq.

Earlier this week, Iraqi forces launched anti-IS operations outside Kirkuk in Iraq's north as well as in western Anbar along the border with Syria.


11:55 a.m.

The spokesman for Iraq's mostly Shiite paramilitary troops known as Popular Mobilization Forces says they have joined the battle against Islamic State group militants in the contested province of Kirkuk.

Ahmed al-Asadi says the Shiite militias were pushing west of the IS-held town of Hawija on Friday, following the formal launch of the operation to retake the area — one of the last extremist strongholds in Iraq — the previous day.

Plans to retake the town of Hawija there have been complicated by political wrangling among Iraq's disparate security forces. The town and the governorate are disputed between Baghdad and the northern Kurdish autonomous region, where a referendum on independence is scheduled to take place next week.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders are pressing ahead with the referendum, which Baghdad dismisses as illegal.