Jalal Talabani, first elected president of Iraq - obituary

Jalal Talabani, first elected president of Iraq - obituary

Jalal Talabani, first elected president of Iraq - obituary

Iraqi Kurdish leader and ex-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.

Former Iraq President Jalal Talabani at a press conference on March 2, 2008, in Baghdad, Iraq.

Talabani had flown to Germany on September 11 for medical tests, Kurdistan 24 said.

Talabani, 83, was Iraq's president from 2005 to 2014 and a key figure in Iraqi Kurdistan, where voters last week overwhelmingly backed independence in a disputed referendum.

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Talabani, a veteran leader of the Kurdish struggle for self-determination, was born on November 12, 1933 in Kelkan village near the town of Koy Sanjaq in northern Iraq. At age 14, he joined the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), which began a rebellion in northern Iraq in the 1960s.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has demanded that the Kurdish authorities annul the referendum on independence that was held eight days ago and banned global flights to the region.

As Secretary General of the PUK, he became involved in armed resistance against the government of Saddam Hussein.

Talabani's death was announced on Tuesday amid a major rift between the autonomous Kurdistan Region and the Arab-led central government in Baghdad. But despite his long history of promoting the Kurdish cause before he took office, once installed as president he was regarded as a vital mediator between Iraq's fractious Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish communities.

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