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31 October 2017, 12:41 | Marta Robbins
Iraqi Christians pray in a church. File
A Kurdish official on the Syrian side of the border said access for aid workers and journalists has not been affected.
BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's prime minister on Monday called for calm in the self-ruled northern Kurdish region after rioting the previous night following the Kurdish regional president's decision to effectively step down.
On Sunday, weeks after it was clear that he had lost the bet, Barzani stepped down as president of the Kurdish semiautonomous region of Iraq, leaving the Kurds with no credible successor even as bickering parliamentary factions struggled to apportion his powers. They attacked lawmakers and reporters while a crowd outside parliament waved Kurdish flags.
The protesters broke into the assembly and attacked lawmakers and journalists until the police subdued them.
Gorran and the PUK also reported that their offices in the town of Zakho - a KDP stronghold in north-western Dohuk province - were burned down. The Kurdish forces lost almost half of the territory that had controlled during the war against the Islamic State group.
The televised speech marked a melancholic denouement for the Kurdish leader, weeks after he defied worldwide and regional opposition to an independence poll held in Kurdish-majority provinces as well as in territories in dispute between Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region.
He blamed the central government in Baghdad, which had dismissed the Kurdish vote as illegal, accusing it of escalating tensions.
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.
"You should therefore meet at your earliest convenience to ensure there is no legal vacuum in the execution of the duties and powers of the president of the region", said Barzani in a letter he submitted to parliament before his address, according to a copy released online.
He also informed parliament that he will not seek an extension of his term, which is set to expire November 1, but Barzani's senior assistant, Hemin Hawrami said the move did not mean the Kurdish leader was "stepping down".
He added that Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have been "staunch allies of the United Kingdom in recent years as we have jointly fought the scourge of the Islamic State (IS) in the region".
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