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Kurdish flag sparks controversy at former Iraqi president’s funeral

The coffin of former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is covered with a Kurdish flag at Sulaimaniya Airport, Iraq, on October 6, 2017. (REUTERS/Ako Rasheed)
IRBIL, Iraq: Jalal Talabani, the former Kurdish leader and Iraq’s first president under its postwar Constitution, who died in Germany on Tuesday aged 83, was laid to rest in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya on Friday.
Iraqi officials reportedly said that Talabani's body should have been transported to Baghdad first for an official funeral before sending the coffin to Sulaimaniya, but Talabani's family refused to allow his body to be taken to the Iraqi capital.
Special dispensation was required to allow the flight carrying Talabani’s body to land in Sulaimaniya, as the Iraqi government
imposed a ban on all international flights to Kurdistan following last week’s referendum in which people in northern Iraq voted in favor of Kurdish independence.
While the national anthems of both Iraq and Kurdistan were played at Talabani’s funeral, his coffin was draped in the Kurdish flag, which Reuters reported “sparked a wave of protests on media close to Shi’ite political groups.” Reuters added that Al-Etejah TV stopped its broadcast of the ceremony “because the coffin was not draped by the Iraqi flag.”
Talabani was a longtime advocate of Kurdish self-determination, and held the office of Iraqi president from 2005, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, until 2014.
Leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan — President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani – attended the funeral, alongside Iraqi
President Fuad Masum, interior minister Qasim al-Araji, and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Salim Al-Jabouri.
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was the most senior foreign official present at the ceremony.

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