By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region says he is stepping down amid tensions over last month’s independence referendum.
In a letter read to lawmakers in Irbil on October 29, 71-year-old Masud Barzani said he would no longer exercise his functions after November 1.
“I ask parliament to meet to fill the vacancy in power,” Barzani added.
The move comes as the September 25 independence referendum he had championed triggered a regional crisis.
People living in areas under Kurdish control in northern Iraq overwhelmingly backed secession in the vote that the Baghdad government rejected as illegal.
Following the referendum, Iraqi government troops and allied Shi’ite militia fighters moved into disputed areas that previously were held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
The assault dealt a severe blow to Barzani, who has held the post since 2005.
Presidential and parliamentary elections due for November 1 in the autonomous Kurdish region have been delayed.