ERBIL - Iraq’s prime minister pledged Sunday to take all the “necessary measures” to protect the country’s unity a day before its autonomous Kurdish region votes in a referendum on independence.

Haider al-Abadi spoke out in a televised address shortly after Kurdish leader Massud Barzani said the Kurds’ partnership with Baghdad had failed, and that the plebiscite would proceed as planned on Monday.

Abadi said that taking a unilateral decision to stage a referendum affected both Iraqi and regional security, and was “unconstitutional and against civil peace”.

“We will take the necessary measures to preserve the unity of the country,” he said but without elaborating. He added that “we will not permit anyone to play with Iraq and not pay the consequences”.

Earlier, Barzani urged his people to turn out and vote on Monday. “The partnership with Baghdad has failed and we will not return to it,” he said. Barzani has resisted pressure from Baghdad, neighbouring states and Washington to call off the referendum and negotiate a new deal.

“The referendum is not for defining borders or imposing a fait accompli. We want a dialogue with Baghdad to resolve the problems, and the dialogue can last one or two years,” Barzani said of disputed zones such as oil-rich Kirkuk.

Iraq’s neighbours Iran and Turkey strongly oppose the referendum, as both have their own Kurdish minorities and fear the vote will stoke separatist aspirations at home. Tehran upped the pressure on Sunday, saying it had blocked all flights to and from Kurdistan at Baghdad’s request.

Washington and many Western countries had called for the vote to be postponed or cancelled, saying it would hamper the fight against the Islamic State group.

But in regional capital Arbil, Barzani’s political heartland, Kurdish flags were flying everywhere on Sunday.

Most in the city said they would vote, but some also feared the possible consequences. “We look forward to hearing what the situation will be after September 25, as most Kurds will vote for independence to fulfil our dream of an independent state,” said labourer Ahmad Souleiman, 30. “What we’re afraid of is that our enemies have evil intentions towards us.”

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim again denounced the referendum on Sunday, saying it would “further fuel existing instability, lack of authority and chaos in the region”.