Kurdish parties opposed to Barzani claim attacks on offices

Iraqi Christians pray in a church. File

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the United Nations have appealed for calm.

Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi has called for calm and avoiding chaos in Kurdistan Region as violence was reported following declaration by the region's president that he rejects a renewed tenure. They attacked lawmakers and reporters while a crowd outside parliament waved Kurdish flags.

Abadi called the independence referendum illegal.

As MPs discussed the request for his powers to be dissolved dozens of his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) supporters stormed the building, attacking politicians from opposition parties and journalists until police arrived at the scene.

The incident came shortly after the assembly voted to transfer presidential authority from KRG President Masoud Barzani to the Kurdish parliament and the KRG's Council of Justice.

The move effectively suspends the presidency, a post that Barzani had held for 12 years (his second five-year term, which ended in 2015, was extended for two years), while calling for its powers to be distributed among the three branches of government. This decision represents an act of statesmanship during a hard period.

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Barzani "will stay in Kurdish politics and lead the high political council", but on November 1, he will no longer be president of the region, Hawrami said.

Despite his resignation on Sunday, the former president - who has been at the forefront of Kurdish independence efforts for decades and the KRG president for 12 years - is expected to remain a senior political figure. "We were a state within a state", said Kamal Chomani, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, in a phone interview Sunday.

Despite warnings from Baghdad, the United States, Turkey, Iran, the United Nations and others, the vote was held on September 25 in the three provinces that make up the autonomous Kurdish zone as well as in disputed territories claimed by Baghdad, but at the time held by Kurdish forces. The referendum resulted in more than 92 percent of Iraqi Kurds choosing independence.

Abadi said he would accept only an annulment of the referendum and respect for the country's constitution.

"Barzani is saying he doesn't want the presidency to exist anymore, and to create a new constitutional arrangement in a few days - that's actually a lot of work", Ali said in a phone interview.

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