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Iraqi President Arrives In Germany For Treatment


Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has arrived in Germany for further treatment after suffering a stroke.

Reports say the 79-year-old leader was being treated at a Berlin hospital.

In a statement, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle wished Talabani "a quick and full recovery" without elaborating.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was quoted as saying doctors have determined Talabani suffered a "very serious stroke," and that he is showing signs of improvement.

Zebari told The Associated Press news agency that "He is able to feel pain, and this is a sign of progress."

Talabani's spokesman, Nasser al-Ani, said the president is able to move some of his limbs and communicate with simple signals, but is still unable to speak.

Azad Jundiani, spokesperson of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq that the decision to move Talabani to Germany was made after the president began to show signs of improvement.

"Air transportation that takes long hours proves that his health condition has clearly improved," he said. "And we certainly expect it to improve further as he receives more precise and advanced treatment in Germany."

Two well-placed sources earlier told RFE/RL that Talabani has been unconscious since December 17, when he was hospitalized in Baghdad.

Talabani has had a series of health problems in recent years.

He underwent heart surgery in the United States in 2008 and was treated for dehydration and exhaustion in Jordan in 2007.

A veteran Kurdish leader, he became Iraq's first non-Arab president in 2005.

The presidency of Iraq is largely a ceremonial role.

But Talabani is seen as a unifying figure who has helped prevent the disintegration of Iraq's national unity government, which includes Shi’ite and Sunni Arabs as well as Kurds.

His illness comes at a time of increased tensions between the Baghdad government and the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in the north.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Radio Free Iraq
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