Netanyahu says Israel endorses independence for Kurds

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JERUSALEM (AP) Israel's leader says the country supports Kurdish independence ahead of a key referendum on the matter.

In an announcement early Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says Israel rejects the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and considers it a terrorist organization. However, the statement says Israel "supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own."

Iraq's Kurds plan to hold the referendum on Sept. 25 in three governorates that make up their self-ruled region as well as disputed areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Israel has long been sympathetic to the Kurds and becomes to first country to officially endorse them in the vote.

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