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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani dies aged 83

He was Iraq's first non-Arab president — holding the post from 2005 to 2014 — and a key figure in the autonomous Kurdish region, where voters in last week's independence referendum overwhelmingly favoured secession from Baghdad

In this photo taken on November 17, 2009, then Iraqi president Jalal Talabani salutes unidentified war veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, during his first state visit to France. Christophe Ena, Pool / AP
In this photo taken on November 17, 2009, then Iraqi president Jalal Talabani salutes unidentified war veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, during his first state visit to France. Christophe Ena, Pool / AP

Former Iraqi president and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, Jalal Talabani, passed away on Tuesday in Germany, aged 83.

Talabani was Iraq's first non-Arab president — holding the post from 2005 to 2014 — and a key figure in the autonomous Kurdish region, where voters in last week's independence referendum overwhelmingly favoured secession from Baghdad.

A veteran leader of the Kurdish struggle for self-determination, Talabani stepped down as president in 2014 after a long period of treatment following a stroke in 2012.

He was seen as a unifying elder statesman who could soothe tempers among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

News of his death came as Iraq's Kurdish region announced plans to hold presidential and parliamentary elections and as tensions escalated further between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, following last Wednesday's controversial independence vote.

Hendrin Mohammed, head of the Kurdish region's election commission, announced that election campaigning would begin on October 15, with elections held on November 1.

Iraqi Kurdish president Masoud Barzani said repeatedly during the referendum campaign that he would not stand for re-election.

Mohammad Tofiq Rahim, an opponent of Mr Barzani's, is so far the only person to have put forward his candidacy for the presidential election.

"The commission must now examine the documents and [determine whether to] accept his candidacy," said a commission official.

Read more: Death of Jalal Talabani the end of an era for Iraqis

Mr Rahim, 64, a former member of the Kurdish peshmerga security forces, is a member of the Goran party, which is strongly opposed to Mr Barzani.

The most recent presidential vote in the autonomous Kurdish region took place in 2009.

In 2013, the Kurdish parliament extended the presidential term from four years to six.

The last general election in the region was held in September 2013, but Kurdish parliamentary activity was frozen in November 2015, enabling Mr Barzani to remain in power.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament boycotted a parliamentary session.

Iraqi MP Mohammed Al Karbouli said "the Kurdish lawmakers did not show up for Tuesday's session".

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The Iraqi parliament rejected the results of last Wednesday's Kurdish independence referendum, which took place in the autonomous Kurdish region, as well as in areas captured by Kurdish forces battling the ISIL extremists since 2014.

On Tuesday, the parliament requested in a letter that the federal court must take legal measures against Kurdish members of parliament who voted for independence from Iraq.

"The parliament decided to collect the names of those who voted in the referendum as a step towards their impeachment by the higher federal court," parliamentary speaker Salim Al Jabouri said during a press conference.

"The parliament's decisions against those involved in vote was not a collective punishment”.

Mr Al Jabouri confirmed he was willing to open a dialogue with Mr Barzani's Kurdistan Regional Government to resolve disputes, but ruled out talks on independence.

The parliament also adopted a bill that will force Baghdad to halt all financial transactions with the KRG.

In response to the independence vote, the Iraqi parliament instructed Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi to send troops to retake the contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which is held by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad — though it does not appear any were ever sent. MPs also dismissed the ethnically-mixed Kirkuk province's Kurdish governor who supported the referendum.

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