BREAKING: Former President DEAD

Iraq’s 1st non-Arab president, Jalal Talabani, dies in Germany

Baghdad, IRAQ — Former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani died in a hospital in Germany on Tuesday after a period of health deterioration, according to Iraq’s State TV.

Talabani was 83 years old.

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Mohamed Mostafa at Iraqi News reports that he suffered a stroke in 2012 which kept him out of politics, but returned back in 2014. In September, he flew to Germany for medical testing.

Talabani was born in 1933 near Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region. A former secretary-General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of Kurdistan’s largest political group, Talabani was elected in 2005, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as the country’s first non-Arab president. He stepped down in 2014.

Talabani was one of Kurdistan’s pro-independence figures, and his death comes as the region has recently held a referendum on independence from Iraq which was voted positively by 92 of voters.

The BBC reports that although the post of president is largely ceremonial, while in office he helped mediate disputes among the country’s many political and religious factions.

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Talabani’s death was announced on Tuesday amid a major rift between the autonomous Kurdistan Region and the Arab-led central government in Baghdad.

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 international flights to the region.

The Kurdistan Regional Government insists the vote, in which more than 90% of people backed secession from Iraq, was legitimate and accused Mr Abadi of “collective punishment”.

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