Iraqi president to receive medical treatment in Germany

Iraq’s ailing President Jalal Talabani is to be airlifted to Germany for specialist treatment after suffering a reported stroke, his office said on Wednesday.

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

"The president’s condition is improving, and he will be transferred to a hospital in Germany tomorrow," Thursday, Najm al-Din Karim, one of Talabani’s doctors, told AFP.

And 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.

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

Talabani was hospitalised on Monday night after what Iraqiya state television reported was a stroke, but doctors and officials have not commented specifically about his health problem.

Earlier on Wednesday, Dr 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 teams to assist with Talabani’s treatment, and that a British team was expected as well.

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 temporarily take charge 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.

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

Since becoming president, he has won praise for attempting to bridge divisions between Sunni and Shiite, and Arab and Kurdish factions.

And over the past year, he has repeatedly sought to convene a national conference aimed at reconciling feuding Iraqi leaders.

A married father of two, he has also dominated Iraqi Kurdish political life along with his long-time rival, Kurdistan regional president Massud Barzani, and his family.

After studying law at Baghdad University and a stint in the army, Talabani, who was born in 1933, joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, father of Massud, and took to the hills in a first uprising against the Iraqi government in 1961.

But he famously fell out with Barzani who sued for peace with Baghdad -- the start of a long and costly internecine feud among Iraqi Kurds.

Talabani joined a KDP splinter faction in 1964, and 11 years later established the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The two Kurdish rebel factions were both key allies of the US-led coalition in its 2003 invasion and overthrow of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Copyright © 2012 AFP