Iraqi President Jalal Talabani flies to Germany for treatment


An Iraqi soldier stands guard next to a picture of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, at the party's headquarters in Baghdad on December 19, 2012. Talabani has since been transferred to hospital in Germany.



BERLIN, Germany — Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has flown to Germany for medical treatment following a suspected stroke.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle confirmed that Talabani had arrived in the country Thursday morning and wished him "a rapid and full recovery," Deutsche Welle reported.

According to Reuters, Talabani is being treated at the Charité hospital in Berlin.

German doctors had earlier assessed him in Baghdad and made the decision that he was stable enough to travel, the BBC said.

The details of his condition are still not fully clear. He was rushed to hospital on Monday night after what Iraqi media later described as a stroke; by Tuesday, he was reported to be in a coma.

"He is starting to regain his senses," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the Associated Press on Thursday. "He is able to feel pain, and this is a sign of progress."

Talabani, 79, is known to have had prior health problems: he underwent heart surgery in the US in 2008, DW said, and the year before was taken to Jordan to be treated for "dehydration and exhaustion."

His latest health problems have raised doubts as to whether he will return to politics, opening the door to what Reuters said "could be a messy succession battle."

The AP describes Talabani, Iraq's first Kurdish president, as "an influential mediator able to bridge the country’s complex ethnic and sectarian rifts," who just last week helped broker a deal between Kurds and government troops to stand down in disputed areas of northern Iraq.

Vice President Khudier al-Khuzaie will replace Talabani during his absence.

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