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Barzani announces his resignation as Iraq's Kurdish leader

30 October 2017

Barzani's office released a statement Sunday announcing the Kurdish leader will not extend his current term, which ends Wednesday.

Parliament in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said it will meet Sunday to redistribute the powers of president Massud Barzani who is facing pressure to quit after last month's independence vote.

Gunshots were heard. Some protesters outside the building said they wanted to "punish" MPs who they said had "insulted" Barzani. November 1 was the date of a planned election for president and parliament that has now been postponed indefinitely.

His supporters, on the other hand, consider him the only credible candidate to lead the Kurds in a long-deferred quest for self-rule.

Iraqi government forces and the Tehran-backed Popular Mobilisation launched a surprise offensive on October 16 in retaliation to the September 25 independence referendum organized by the KRG. The vote was overwhelmingly for independence and triggered the military action by the Baghdad government and threats from neighbouring Turkey and Iran. He suggested that his political opponents had worked with Baghdad and the United States to stamp out a peaceful democratic exercise by Kurds seeking full autonomy. "We tried to stop bloodshed but the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Front (Shi'ite militias) kept advancing, using USA weapons", he said.

Barzani has led the KRG since it was established in 2005. In 2013 he refused to abandon the post, though his mandate expired.

It's also a boost for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose leadership since the Kurdish crisis escalated has burnished his reputation as a decisive and resolute leader ahead of elections next year.

A day after USA supermajor Chevron said it was standing down in the Kurdish north of Iraq, British company Gulf Keystone Petroleum said all was well.

Of particular concern was the provocative decision to hold the referendum in areas historically disputed between Baghdad and the Kurds, including Kirkuk - an oil-rich province that peshmerga forces seized during a chaotic withdrawal of Iraqi forces in the face of an Islamic State onslaught.

Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reached an agreement on Friday to stop fighting in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said, although the status of any ceasefire remained unclear.

Meanwhile, during a meeting held in Mosul Saturday with a Peshmerga delegation in the presence of the United States, an Iraqi military delegation asked that the Kurdish forces pullback to 2003 "blue line" border and to hand over all border crossings.

A first round was held on Friday and Saturday, with Abadi ordering a 24-hour suspension on Friday of military operations against Kurdish forces.

Iraqi government forces, Iranian-backed militias and Kurdish troops fought alongside each other to defeat Islamic State, also called ISIS, but the alliance has faltered with the militants largely defeated in the country.

He demanded on Thursday that the Kurds declare their referendum void, rejecting the KRG offer to suspend its independence push to resolve a crisis through talks, saying in a statement: "We won't accept anything but its cancellation and the respect of the constitution".

Barzani announces his resignation as Iraq's Kurdish leader