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Iraq's Ailing President To Be Moved To Germany For Treatment


Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
BAGHDAD -- Doctors treating Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at a Baghdad hospital say he will be flown to Germany for further treatment after suffering a reported stroke.

Doctors at the Baghdad hospital told Western news agencies Talabani was expected to be transferred to Germany, possibly within a day.

Talabani was hospitalized late on December 17 with what state television and several officials said was a stroke. But Talabani 's doctors have not officially confirmed he had a stroke.

A statement of the presidential website on December 18 said the 79-year-old Talabani was suffering from hardening of the arteries. The statement said he was hospitalized for "a health emergency."

On December 19, doctors said his condition was improving but offered few details.

Two well-placed sources told RFE/RL on December 19 that Talabani was unconscious.

At the same time, a Kurdish lawmaker and Talabani ally, Mahmud Othman, told RFE/RL that the Iraqi president's condition was improving.

"His health condition is improving now after he was admitted into the hospital early morning yesterday," Othman said. "It is possible that he will be taken abroad tomorrow or after tomorrow for further treatment."

Health Problems

Earlier, Deputy Health Minister Issam Namiq confirmed that doctors were considering whether to send Talabani abroad for treatment. He said no decision had yet been made.

Neighboring Turkey has reportedly offered to send an air ambulance to fly the president to a hospital abroad.

Medical teams from Iran and Germany were said to have arrived in Baghdad to assist Talabani's Iraqi doctors.

Namiq told reporters the president was getting better, but he offered no details.

Talabani has suffered from 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.

Talabani founded one of the main Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and became Iraq's first non-Arab president in 2005.

Kamran al-Karadaghi, a former aide to Talabani and now an independent writer and commentator in London, said Talabani's "role and political weight in the Kurdish region is important. He has been acting as an agent of unification rather than separation."

For his part, independent Iraqi political analyst Amir Hasan Fiadh said Talabani was "a political figure for the Iraqi state, as opposed to a politician from one of the factions. He truly plays a role of the president of the republic for all the Iraqis with the best execution of that role."

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, though it does retain some powers under the Iraqi Constitution.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq
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