Late Kurdish leader Talabani sought Iraqi unity as president

Syria Iraq issues directly affect Turkey Erdogan

Iraqi Kurdish leader and ex-Iraqi president Jalal Talabani died on Tuesday at age 83, Iraqi state TV said, a week after Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region held a referendum on independence.

His niece, Alaa Talabani, an Iraqi member of parliament, confirmed his death to CNN, after it was reported by Iraqi state TV and Kurdish media.

Talabani had flown to Germany on September 11 for medical tests, Kurdistan 24 said. Before he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2012 - and stepped down two years later - he had forged a steady working relationship with the Shia prime minister, Nouri al Maliki.

Talabani was born in 1933 next to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

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In 1975, he founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), an organization striving to promote the autonomy and independence of the Kurdish people from the rest of Iraq.

Talabani was an advocate for Kurdish rights and democracy in Iraq for more than 50 years.

After studying law at Baghdad University and doing a stint in the army, Talabani joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Massoud's father, and took to the hills in a first uprising against the then-Iraqi government in 1961.

Talabani was the first non-Arab president of Iraq, although Abdul Karim Qasim was of partial Kurdish. His youngest son, Qubad, is the deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil.

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