Ex-Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Dies

 Jalal Talabani
 Jalal Talabani

Iraqi Kurdish leader and former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani died on Tuesday at age 83, Iraqi state TV said, a week after Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region held a referendum on independence.

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

Talabani died in Germany, according to Erbil-based Rudaw TV, which reported earlier in the day that his health had deteriorated. He often went to Germany for medical treatment.

His wife and companion in political struggle, Hero, and his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party voiced only lukewarm support for the Sept. 25 referendum that delivered an overwhelming “yes” to secession from Iraq.

Unlike Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani of the rival Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), the PUK has had traditionally good ties with Iran and Iranian-backed Shia groups. The Baghdad government, Iran and Turkey all strongly opposed the referendum.

Talabani was born near Erbil, now the seat of the autonomous KRG in northern Iraq, in 1933. He lived in Sulaimaniya, a stronghold of his PUK. He was the first non-Arab president of Iraq, elected in 2005, two years after the US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.


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