The Latest: Iraqi Kurds withdraw from area near Kirkuk

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

1:40 p.m.

A Kurdish commander says his forces have withdrawn from the edges of a disputed region in northern Iraq amid tensions with the central government over the administration of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Lt. Gen. Wasta Rasul said Friday his forces evacuated positions southwest of the city, while an officer in the Iraqi Army's 9th Armored Division said his forces had moved into positions left by the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, in the same area. The army commander spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraqi federal forces shared photos of themselves standing in front of barriers painted with the Kurdish flag on social media. They said the photos were taken "inside Kirkuk." Kirkuk is also the name of the surrounding province.

Iraq's military command rushed to issue a statement denying media reports it had commenced operations for the city.

— Balint Szlanko in Irbil, Iraq

___

12:15 p.m.

Kurdish media says Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has sent 6,000 reinforcements to the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Rudaw News, quoting Kurdish Vice President Kosrat Rasul, says the reinforcements were sent to Kirkuk late Thursday in response to what it says are threats from Baghdad to attack the oil-rich city, which is controlled by Kurdish forces but outside the autonomous Kurdish region.

The Kurds took control of Kirkuk when the Islamic State group swept across northern Iraq in 2014 as the Iraqi military crumbled. Baghdad has demanded the Kurds return to the city to federal authorities, a dispute that has escalated since the Kurds voted for independence in a non-binding referendum last month.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ruled out the use of military force against the Kurds.

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