Washington (AFP) - The United States came out against a call by Iraq's Kurdish leader for an independence referendum, saying the country could only repel Islamic State radicals by staying united.
Massud Barzani, leader of the autonomous region, earlier told parliament to make preparations for a "referendum on the right of self-determination."
But the White House, which has been working behind the scenes to try to convince Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders to form a unified government in Baghdad, gave the idea a cool reception.
"The fact is that we continue to believe that Iraq is stronger if it is united," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
"That is why the United States continues to support an Iraq that is democratic, pluralistic and unified, and we are going to continue to urge all parties in Iraq to continue working together toward that objective."
Vice President Joe Biden later met Barzani's chief of staff Fuad Hussein at the White House, and told the Kurdish delegation of the "importance of forming a new government in Iraq that will pull together all communities" to combat the Islamic State, or IS, a White House statement said.
Biden also spoke about Iraq's plight in a telephone call with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- part of Washington's effort to build support for a drive to form a unified Iraqi government among key players in the region.