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Azerbaijan: President Collapses Twice During Public Speech

Baku, 21 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Reports say Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev collapsed twice today during an official ceremony broadcast live on state television. Aliyev was addressing an estimated 2,000-strong crowd at a Baku military academy when he suddenly clutched his chest and complained of pain.

Television coverage was immediately cut away as Aliyev was whisked away by aides.

He returned to the rostrum after about 15 minutes appearing pale but in control of himself. But, after a few minutes, he fell backward and landed on the floor.

Aides took him away and called for a doctor.

Television coverage was cut away again and organizers of the ceremony instructed the audience not to leave the room. Aliev's office has not commented on the incident yet.

The Azerbaijani leader will turn 80 next month.

He had a heart attack in 1987 and underwent heart bypass surgery in the United States four years ago. He has been to the U.S. several times since then and has also been treated in Turkey on different occasions for unspecificed health problems.