Ailing Iraq president arrives in Germany for treatment

Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:51am EST
 
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BAGHDAD/BERLIN (Reuters) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has arrived in Germany for medical treatment, the German government confirmed on Thursday, after he suffered a stroke earlier in the week.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle issued a statement saying that Talabani, the 79-year-old Kurdish statesman who has acted as a mediator between Iraq's Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, was in Germany.

Sources told Reuters that Talabani was being treated at Berlin's Charite hospital. A black Mercedes with Iraqi diplomatic license plates was seen leaving the Virchow campus of Charite on Thursday morning.

"I can confirm that the Iraqi President Talabani is in Germany for medical treatment," Westerwelle said. "I wish him a rapid and full recovery."

Talabani was admitted to hospital in Iraq on Monday night and his office said earlier that his health had improved and he was being transferred outside the country.

It was uncertain whether he would be able to return to his post, and his potential exit from politics is raising concerns about what could be a messy succession battle.

Talabani has acted as a mediator in a growing dispute over oil between Baghdad and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region.

A year after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, the Arab-led central government and the Kurdish region are increasingly divided over oil and land in a rift that threatens to escalate into open conflict.

Just days before he was hospitalized, Talabani had negotiated between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Kurdistan authorities after both sent troops to face off along an internal border where they have laid rival claims to ethnically mixed territories.

(Reporting by Aseel Kami, Oliver Ellrodt; Writing by Patrick Markey and Noah Barkin; Editing by Michael Roddy)

 
Iraq's President Jalal Talabani addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 23, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar