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IRAQ WARS
Fugitive Saddam-era VP backs Iraq demos in video
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Jan 5, 2013


Iraq president responding well to treatment: statement
Baghdad (AFP) Jan 5, 2013 - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is responding well to treatment in Germany after suffering a stroke and has moved on to rehabilitation, his office said in a statement on Saturday.

Talabani, 79, travelled to Berlin last month after what state television reported was a stroke, the latest in a series of health problems he has suffered in recent years.

"The medical team that treated President Jalal Talabani confirmed that his excellency's health is good, and his response to the treatment has been excellent," a statement on the Iraqi presidency's website said.

"He has passed the difficult stages faster than expected, and that has allowed for ... moving to several rehabilitation procedures."

Germany, Europe's top economy, has a number of world-class medical institutions and foreign dignitaries frequently seek out clinics in the country for care.

Talabani's health has major political implications in Iraq, where he has sought to bring together various feuding politicians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Arabs and Kurds.

Talabani, who was born in November 1933, 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.

He has also travelled to clinics in Europe in the past for treatment for a variety of ailments.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, Saddam Hussein's vice president and the highest-ranking member of his regime still on the run, has backed ongoing rallies in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq in an online video.

The 53-minute video, posted on YouTube on Friday, shows Duri reading a prepared statement behind a desk with a small Saddam-era flag atop it, and appears to be his first video message since April 2012.

The authenticity and date of the clip could not be verified.

In it, the 70-year-old voiced support for protests being held in mostly-Sunni Arab areas in western and northern Iraq that have been airing a multitude of grievances with the Shiite-led government, though primarily criticising the alleged wrongful arrest of members of their minority community.

"Every city and region, all the Iraqi people, and every national and Islamic power is with you, and supports you in achieving your demands to overthrow the Persian Safavid alliance," Duri said.

He was making a pejorative reference to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, implying that it was under the domination of formerly Safavid-ruled neighbouring Iran.

Duri, who was the king of clubs in a US deck of cards showing the most-wanted members of Saddam's regime, said his Saddam-era group was "studying the firm and fair punishment of all who stand and support the Safavid project."

The Baath party, the ruling party in Saddam's Iraq, said Duri had died in 2005, but audio messages attributed to him were broadcast in 2006, 2008 and 2010, in addition to the April 2012 video.

Up to $1 million is offered for information leading to Duri's arrest or conviction, according to the website of the Rewards for Justice programme, which is administered by the US State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

The protests in Iraq began on December 23, and were sparked by the arrest of at least nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a Sunni Arab and a leading member of the secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which is part of Maliki's unity government but frequently criticises him in public.

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