Former Iraqi President Talabani Dead at 83

Former Iraqi President Talabani Dead at 83

Former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the country's first non-Arab president, has died at the age of 83, his family said.

Born in the village of Kelkan in Iraqi Kurdistan, Talabani was an advocate for the rights of the Kurdish minority in Iraq since his adolescence.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said of Talabani: "He was often seen as a unifying elder statesman who could soothe tempers among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds".

Former Iraqi President Talabani Dead at 83

It was unclear whether Massoud Barzani, the heir of a dynasty that has led a Kurdish struggle for independence for over a century, would or could stand in the November poll as Kurdish law says a president cannot stay in office for more than two terms.

Throughout the 80s and 90s the Talabani-led PUK and its Peshmerga forces fought with the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein.

Talabani formerly led one of the largest Kurdish factions in Iraq before the 2003 US -led invasion led to the ouster of Saddam Hussein. He served as president from 2005 to 2014 and oversaw the implementation of a new constitution that strengthened the autonomy of the Kurdish region of Iraq.

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During his tenure, the 2005 Iraqi constitution upheld Iraqi Kurdistan's autonomy - first established in 1991 by the U.S., the United Kingdom and France - which barred Iraqi forces from operating within the northern Kurdish region of the country.

As part of a coalition with the KDP, the PUK swept the Kurdish parliamentary election in 2005 and the party held its political grip on Sulemaniyah, which to this day is littered with billboards and flags depicting Talabani.

Gorran campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and argued that Kurdish politics had become nepotistic and dominated by the Barzani and Talabani clans, both of whom had numerous relatives in senior political positions.

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Talabani had been hospitalised several times in recent years ever since he suffered a stroke in 2012. One of them is Qubad Talabani, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdish region. Talabani's KYB was also distant from Barzani's referendum.

Talabani's death comes after Iraq's Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a referendum on September 25.

"My dear brother President Mam Jalal, I will never forget your brotherhood", said Barzani.

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