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Iraqi President Reportedly Undergoes Heart Surgery In U.S.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
LONDON -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is recovering from heart surgery in the United States, three Iraqi political sources said.

The president has not been seen in public since traveling to the United States on August 2 for what his office said was an operation on his left knee at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. His office said this week that his treatment had been a success.

The sources, all of whom declined to be named while discussing the president's health, said the operation was on his heart rather than his knee. All said Talabani was recovering well and the operation was a success.

Talabani, 74, has had health problems in the past.

A Kurd, Talabani has been president since 2005. Although he does not wield executive power in Iraq, his role is seen as critical in maintaining the country's delicate ethnic balance.

He had a major impact on Iraqi politics last month when he vetoed a law allowing provincial elections. His fellow Kurds opposed the law because they feared it would have restricted their control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

His two vice presidents are a Shi'ite and a Sunni Arab.

The Mayo Clinic confirmed he has been a patient but would give no further details.

"At the patient's request, we have no information," a spokeswoman for the clinic said.