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Iraq's President Jalal Talabani suffers stroke

11:19 AM, Dec 18, 2012   |    comments
August 2007 file photo shows Iraqi President Jalal Talabani talking to reporters in Baghdad
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Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has had a stroke and his medical team in Baghdad is still trying to stabilize his condition, a spokesman for the prime minister said Tuesday.

The Reuters news agency quotes three government sources as saying Talabani is in critical but stable condition. Reuters also cites a statement from his office as saying Talabani is in stable condition and being treated for hardening of the arteries.

Talabani, a rare unifying figure who is seen to rise above the country's ethnic and sectarian fault lines, has been actively involved in trying to mediate an ongoing crisis between Iraq's central government and the country's Kurdish minority.

The spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is at the hospital where the president is being treated.

Doctors have not decided whether Talabani will continue to be treated in Baghdad or will be flown to another country for treatment, he said. He was unable to provide further details.

Talabani's office earlier said the Iraqi president had been rushed to the hospital after showing signs of fatigue on Monday evening, and that he was being treated for an unspecified health problem.

Talabani's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

An Iraqi Cabinet official said Talabani fainted Monday and remains unconscious. The official agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details about the president's health.

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.

Talabani, a member of Iraq's Kurdish minority, has frequently used the post to mediate disputes within the government and among Iraq's various sects and ethnic groups.

He has recently been working to resolve a standoff between the central government and the Kurds, who have their own fighting force.

The two sides last month moved additional troops into disputed areas along the Kurds' self-rule northern region, prompting fears that fighting could break out.

Talabani last week brokered a deal that calls on both sides to eventually withdraw troops from the contested areas, though there is no timetable for how soon the drawdown might take place.

Talabani met with al-Maliki earlier Monday. They agreed that al-Maliki would invite a delegation from the Kurdish regional government to Baghdad to continue the talks, according to the prime minister's office.

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