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Iraqi President Talabani suffers a stroke
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was being treated in a Baghdad hospital under intensive care Tuesday after suffering a stroke, injecting new uncertainty into the country’s political future a year after the U.S. military left.
Iraqi state TV and several officials, including the prime minister’s spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, confirmed the nature of Talabani’s illness. The seriousness of the stroke is unclear.
Although his political powers are limited, Talabani, 79, is respected by many Iraqis as a rare unifying figure able to rise above the ethnic and sectarian rifts that still divide the country. Known for his joking manner and walrus-like moustache, Talabani has been actively involved in trying to mediate an ongoing crisis between Iraq’s central government and the country’s Kurdish minority, from which he hails.
Rifle-toting soldiers assigned to the presidential guard were deployed around Medical City, Baghdad’s largest medical complex, where Talabani is being treated. A number of senior government officials and lawmakers were seen rushing to the hospital to check on his condition, though their bodyguards were not being allowed inside.
It initially said he was being treated for an unspecified health problem. A later statement cited tests showing he is suffering from an unnamed condition caused by a hardening of his arteries.
Talabani’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Word of Talabani’s illness trickled out exactly a year after the last U.S. troops rolled out of Iraq. Their departure on Dec. 18, 2011, ended a nearly nine-year war that left more than 100,000 Iraqis and nearly 4,500 Americans dead.
The Iraqi presidency is seen as a largely ceremonial post, though it does retain some powers under Iraq’s constitution. The president must sign off on laws approved by parliament and has the power to block executions.
He has recently been working to resolve a standoff between the central government and the Kurds, who have their own fighting force.
By Tom Fitton
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