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Iraqi Kurdish Leader Barzani To Step Down


Iraqi Kurdish President Masud Barzani casts his vote during the Kurdish independence referendum in Irbil on September 25.

The president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region says he is stepping down amid tensions over last month's independence referendum.

In a letter read to lawmakers in Irbil on October 29, 71-year-old Masud Barzani said he would no longer exercise his functions after November 1.

"I ask parliament to meet to fill the vacancy in power," Barzani added.

The region's parliament met in Irbil to discuss Barzani's letter, with deputies later voting 70-23 to accept Barzani's request, Kurdish TV channels Rudaw and Kurdistan 24 reported.

The move comes as the September 25 independence referendum he had championed triggered a regional crisis.

People living in areas under Kurdish control in northern Iraq overwhelmingly backed secession in the vote that the Baghdad government rejected as illegal.

Following the referendum, Iraqi government troops and allied Shi'ite militia fighters moved into disputed areas that previously were held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

The assault dealt a severe blow to Barzani, who has held his post since 2005.

Presidential and parliamentary elections due for November 1 in the autonomous Kurdish region have been delayed.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP