AMMAN: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived in Jordan for medical tests on 25 February after suffering a drop in blood pressure, Jordanian and Iraqi officials said.
A Jordanian official said Talabani was driven immediately from Amman airport to the specialist King Hussein Medical Centre.
A close aide to the Iraq president denied media reports he had suffered a heart attack. “It’s a lie. He is exhausted, he’s very tired, he had a very long week in Sulaimaniya meeting with party leaders,” the aide said.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said in Baghdad that Talabani was suffering from low blood pressure.
“He had a drop in blood pressure. Doctors said he needs further tests,” said Salih, a Kurd who is close to the president, a former Kurdish guerrilla leader in his early 70s.
A statement issued by Talabani’s office said: “There is no cause for concern,” but gave no details of his illness.
“Because of his hard work in past days, President Jalal Talabani has become ill and the doctors advised him to take some tests and now he is on his way to Jordan,” the statement said.
“This morning he woke up and he felt very tired. The doctor checked him up and didn’t find anything wrong. But Sulaimaniya doesn’t have all the technology and he is the president so the doctor convinced him to do further tests,” he said, adding that Talabani was on his feet when he went to the airport.
Talabani’s post is largely ceremonial but he is an influential political figure with close links to Washington.
On 24 February, Talabani met US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in the autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq and held a joint news conference with Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani.
Talabani heads the secular, socialist Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of two parties that dominate the Kurdish enclave that broke away from Baghdad’s control after the 1991 Gulf war.
A former guerrilla leader who fought Saddam Hussein for years, Talabani capped a life dedicated to the Kurdish cause by becoming Iraq’s first Kurdish head of state.
Born in 1933, Talabani has spent most of his life fighting for independence for Kurds. He is known affectionately among Kurds as Mam, or uncle.