BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on developments in Iraq (all times local):
An Iraqi government spokesman says a delegation from the country's Kurdish region will travel to Baghdad ahead of the controversial referendum on Kurdish independence planned for Monday.
Saad al-Hadithi says Iraqi government officials are ready to meet the delegation Saturday, but the central government still rejects the referendum and its results.
The news comes amid growing pressure from the international community on Iraq's Kurdish leadership to delay the controversial vote and instead engage in talks.
Earlier on Friday the president of Iraq's Kurdish region said negotiations are still possible with the central government, but pledged the vote on support for independence would go ahead as planned.
In a statement released Thursday, the United Nations called for "structured dialogue and compromise supported by the international community" between the Kurdish region and Baghdad
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.
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.