Iraq president home after 18-month convalescence

SULAIMANIYAH: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani flew back to his Kurdish fiefdom of Sulaimaniyah Saturday after more than 18 months in Germany for medical treatment, sources in his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said. The 80-year-old head of state arrived on a private aircraft, but access to the airport was restricted to his close entourage, an AFP correspondent said. “A German medical team is accompanying Talabani to monitor his health,” Begerd Talabani, a niece of the president and a member of the Kurdish parliament, told AFP. The PUK said Friday the avuncular octogenarian was ready to resume his duties, but sources close to Talabani said a doctor and two nurses would remain by his side, suggesting he was still frail. While most of Iraq’s political power lies with the prime minister’s office, Talabani was long seen as a key mediator between the country’s feuding factions. But many observers now cast him off as a spent force, both physically and politically, with his long-time rival Massud Barzani presiding over the destiny of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government. Talabani returned to Iraq on the eve of a deadline for parliament’s various blocs to agree on candidates for his job, the latest step in what has been a protracted and tumultuous process to renew Iraq’s leadership following April elections. 

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Aaj Kal