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Protesters storm Kurdistan parliament after Barzani announces resignation

Iraqi Kurdish president Barzani speaks during a news conference in Erbil. (Reuters)

Demonstrators, some carrying clubs, stormed the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament building in Erbil on Sunday, angry at the decision of Masoud Barzani to step down from the presidency of the region, witnesses said.

Gunshots were heard as protesters who claimed they were "Peshmerga" Kurdish fighters forced their way inside the building, they said.

Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, told a closed-door session of parliament Sunday he was stepping down amid the fall-out from a controversial independence referendum.

“After November 1, I will no longer exercise my functions, and I reject any extension of my mandate,” the 71-year-old said in a letter read out to parliament in the Kurdish capital Arbil, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

“Changing the law on the presidency of Kurdistan or prolonging the presidential term is not acceptable,” said the architect of the September 25 independence vote, which led to the Kurds losing to Baghdad’s forces disputed territory to which they laid claim.

“I ask parliament to meet to fill the vacancy in power, to fulfil the mission and to assume the powers of the presidency of Kurdistan”, said the letter.

Barzani also said he would continue “remain a peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) among the ranks of the people of Kurdistan and I will continue to defend the achievements of the people of Kurdistan”.

Sunday’s parliamentary session was held behind closed doors because of “sensitive questions” that would be discussed, deputies said earlier.

Officials from Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had told journalists ahead of the session that the letter to be read out would announce he was stepping aside.

Kurdish parliamentary sources noted that both the Movement of Change and the Islamic Group, that boycotted the previous sessions, will take part in Sunday’s meeting.

The time limit of 24 hours between Baghdad and Erbil has been extended for further hours due to disagreement on the powers of the negotiators and has been handed the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi and Barzani.

Kurdistan Parliament meeting in Erbil, Iraq September 15, 2107. (Reuters)

According to the joint operations, the technical meeting, which was divided into two phases, concluded with understandings that handed over disputed areas, including Makhmour, Dabkeh, Kuwair, Zamar and Rabia, apartfrom Sheikhan, Hamdania and Talkaif.

The dispute remained pending agreement on Feshkhabur crossing as Baghdad insists on restoring it, while Erbil refuses.

Feshkhabur is set to return to Zakho district of the province of Dohuk, one of the provinces of Kurdistan and giving it up means Baghdad occupies Kurdish areas and thus violates the constitution of the country, which may cause future outbreak of new confrontations.

Kurdish parliamentary sources said that the parliament may resolve in the coming hours many differences and real threats against the region and its presidency.

It might announce the abolition of the post of President of the region and the distribution of powers of the President to parliament and the government after President Barzani stated he is not going to run for a new term after the end of his mandate early next month.

While the Iraqi Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Osman al-Ghanmi, said that progress was made at the meeting of the delegations of Baghdad and Erbil, with an American presence.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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Last Update: Sunday, 29 October 2017 KSA 19:58 - GMT 16:58
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