The governor of Iraq's oil-rich Kirkuk province condemned a vote by Iraq's parliament on Thursday to remove him from office as "unlawful" and vowed to stay in power.
Kurds are set to hold the referendum on September 25 but Baghdad opposes it, with lawmakers voting to reject it. Iraq's neighbors - Turkey, Iran and Syria - also oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.
The planned vote has faced strong opposition from the federal government in Baghdad as well as neighbouring Iran and Turkey, which fear it will stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizable Kurdish minorities.
The Turkish foreign ministry warned in a statement that the Iraqi Kurdish leaders' call for a referendum was "worrying".
The Kurdish minority in Iraq controls three Iraqi provinces, which enjoy a high degree of autonomy, having a regional government and their own security institutions.More news: Oil prices climb after IEA report
A Kurdish leading party on Thursday rejected the decision of the move.
In another development, the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) on Tuesday boycotted a meeting held in Kirkuk between KRG President Masoud Barzani and ethnic and religious groups based in the city.
The ministry said it welcomed the decision made by the Iraqi parliament, adding that their vote was a "clear indicator of importance attached to Iraq's political unity and territorial integrity".
He said Iran and Turkey believe that if the referendum is held, it would be a basis for more tensions and conflicts in Iraq. He explained that the law for the Iraqi provincial election passed in 2008 stipulated that Kirkuk, unlike the rest of the Iraqi provinces, would not come under the authority of the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister.
Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population and is battling Kurdish insurgents, has forged close ties to Iraq's autonomous region but opposes an independent Kurdish state.