Kur­dish leader steps down, crit­i­cises US

The New Zealand Herald - - WORLD -

Iraqi Kur­dish leader Ma­soud Barzani said he would give up his po­si­tion as Pres­i­dent to­day, af­ter an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum he cham­pi­oned back­fired and trig­gered a regional cri­sis.

In a tele­vised ad­dress, his first since Iraqi forces launched a sur­prise of­fen­sive to re­cap­ture Kur­dish-held ter­ri­tory on Oc­to­ber 16, Barzani con­firmed that he would not ex­tend his pres­i­den­tial term af­ter Novem­ber 1 “un­der any con­di­tions”.

“I am the same Ma­soud Barzani, I am a Pesh­merga [Kur­dish fighter] and will con­tinue to help my peo­ple in their strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence,” said Barzani, who has cam­paigned for Kur­dish self-deter­mi­na­tion for nearly four decades.

The ad­dress fol­lowed a let­ter he sent to Par­lia­ment in which he asked mem­bers to take mea­sures to fill the re­sult­ing power vac­uum.

The re­gion’s Par­lia­ment met in the Kur­dish cap­i­tal Er­bil to dis­cuss the let­ter. A ma­jor­ity of 70 Kur­dish MPs voted to ac­cept Barzani’s re­quest and 23 op­posed it, Kur­dish TV chan­nels Ru­daw and Kur­dis­tan 24 said.

In his ad­dress, Barzani vig­or­ously de­fended his de­ci­sion to hold the Septem­ber 25 ref­er­en­dum, the re­sults of which “can never be erased”, he said. The vote was over­whelm­ingly for in­de­pen­dence and trig­gered the mili- tary ac­tion by the Bagh­dad Gov­ern­ment and threats from neigh­bour­ing Turkey and Iran.

He added that the Iraqi at­tack on Kirkuk and other Kur­dish held ter­ri­tory vin­di­cated his po­si­tion that Bagh­dad no longer be­lieved in fed­er­al­ism and in­stead wanted to cur­tail Kur­dish rights.

Barzani con­demned the United States for fail­ing to back the Kurds. “We tried to stop blood­shed but the Iraqi forces and Pop­u­lar Mo­bil­i­sa­tion Front [Shia mili­tias] kept ad­vanc­ing, us­ing US weapons,” he said. “Our peo­ple should now ques­tion, whether the US was aware of Iraq’s at­tack and why they did not pre­vent it.” — Reuters

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