Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani confirms intention to step down on November 1

Peshmerga defeat Iranian-backed Shia PMF militia attack near Rabia northern Iraq

Iraqi Kurdish president Massoud Barzani is to step down as the region wrestles with Baghdad over independence. Some MPs were barricaded in their offices on Sunday evening.

He said the Iraqi offensives since October 16 and the refusal of the Iraqi government to agree to dialogue vindicated his view that "Iraq no longer believes in Kurdish rights".

Hawrami said Barzani could remain in office if mandated to hold the post until the next Kurdish presidential elections are held.

Gunshots were heard. Some protesters outside the building said they wanted to "punish" MPs who they said had "insulted" Barzani. A Kurdish official said Sunday that Barzani, has informed parliament that he'll not stay in office as his term expires November 1 in the wake of a controversial vote on independence from Iraq.

In his address, Barzani vigorously defended his decision to hold the September 25 referendum, the results of which "can never be erased", he said.

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The federal government deemed the vote unconstitutional, and its forces have since seized a swathe of disputed territory in the north from Kurdish fighters.

He added that the Iraqi attack on Kirkuk and other Kurdish held territory vindicated his postion that Baghdad no longer believed in federalism and instead wanted to curtail Kurdish rights. "We tried to stop bloodshed but the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Front (Shi'ite militias) kept advancing, using USA weapons", he said.

Tensions have been running high between Baghdad and Erbil after the Kurds held a controversial referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan region and the disputed areas. Less than four weeks a military offensive was mounted to clean oil rich Kirkuk province from the KRG forces locally known as Peshmarga.

"Nobody stood up with us other than our mountains", he said, speaking with Kurdish and Iraqi flags behind him. He said "everything must be done to avoid fighting between the Iraqis, and that in line with Iraq's unity and constitution, a dialogue must be held between Erbil (the capital city of Kurdistan Region in Northern Iraq) and Baghdad taking into account the rights of Kurds and minorities". Kirkuk was considered to be a key source of revenue for their would-be independent state.

For his part, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said on Saturday that the target of the Iraqi forces is to allow for its redeployment until reaching the Fishkhabur area on the Iraqi-Turkish border. He had also rejected the Kurdish autonomous region's offer to suspend its independence movement and begin talks to resolve the crisis.

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