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Iraqi president to be treated in Germany

By AFP - Dec 19,2012 - Last updated at Dec 19,2012

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s ailing President Jalal Talabani, a key politician who sought to bridge political and sectarian divides, will be flown to Germany for specialist treatment after a reported stroke, his office said on Wednesday.

Talabani was hospitalised late on Monday after what state television reported was a stroke, but doctors said on Wednesday that his condition was improving.

Barzan Sheikh Othman, the top media official in Talabani’s office, said teams of doctors from Iraq, Germany and Britain decided that the president should be transferred to Germany for further treatment.

“The president’s condition is improving, and he will be transferred to a hospital in Germany tomorrow (Thursday),” said Najm Al Din Karim, one of Talabani’s doctors.

No immediate comment was available from the German foreign ministry in Berlin.

Doctors and officials have also not commented about the specific nature of Talabani’s health problem.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hani Mussa Badr, the director general of Baghdad’s Medical City hospital where Talabani was being treated, said that “tests showed the stability and improvement of his excellency’s health condition”.

And Deputy Health Minister Issam Namiq said both Iran and Germany had sent medical teams, and that a British team was also expected.

Talabani’s health has major political implications, as he has sought to bridge divides between Iraq’s various feuding politicians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Arabs and Kurds.

“Jalal Talabani is a crucial joining-link between Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad,” International Crisis Group Iraq analyst Maria Fantappie said of the autonomous Kurdish region in north Iraq that has been at odds with Baghdad over a number of issues.

“President Talabani has been crucial in mediating between the two sides and ensuring the continuation of dialogue between Kurds and the central government,” Fantappie said.

Under Iraq’s constitution, the vice president takes over if the post of president becomes vacant for any reason, and a new president must be elected by parliament within 30 days.

Vice President Khudayr Al Khuzaie would apparently take charge temporarily if Talabani dies, both by virtue of being the senior of Iraq’s two vice presidents, and because the other, Tareq Al Hashemi, is a fugitive who has been given multiple death sentences for charges including murder.

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

He underwent successful heart surgery in the United States in August 2008. The previous year, he was evacuated to neighbouring Jordan for treatment for dehydration and exhaustion.

Talabani has also travelled to the United States and to Europe for treatment for a variety of ailments.

He has been a key figure in Iraqi politics for decades, first as a Kurdish rebel and political leader, and as president since 2005.

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