Friday, May 18, 2007

Report: Hakim flies to U.S. for 'medical tests'

The LA Times reports that the medical issue is high blood pressure. The trip is unusual for an Iraqi leader, as excellent medical facilities are available to them in Jordan and Iran. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is head of the Shi'ite coalition of parties in parliament, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which maintains Prime Minister Maliki in power. Before the fall of Saddam, Hakim spent years in exile in Iran, where, as leader of the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) he headed the anti-Saddam Badr Brigade militia. After Saddam's fall, the Badr Brigade merged into Iraq's official security forces, and Hakim became a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. In December, Hakim met with Bush in Washington, shortly before the administration attempted to coordinate Prime Minister Maliki's ouster with Hakim chosen by Washington to be the power-broker behind the scenes. But that plan was stopped dead in its tracks by Grand Ayatollah Sistani. By February, Hakim was no longer Washington's apparent favorite, and the U.S. raided the Baratha mosque in Baghdad, with which he is associated. The U.S. military says it was targeted for 'illegally armed militia kidnapping, torture and murder activities'. SCIRI (now Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq -- SICI), which Hakim heads, is the largest member of U.I.A.

BAGHDAD (AP) - The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite political party has left for the United States for medical checkups, an official at his office said Friday.

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim flew to the United States on Wednesday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. He released no other details.

Al-Hakim, re-elected last week as leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, is not known to be suffering any health problems, but he is a heavy smoker. He addressed a news conference May 12 at the end of a two-day conference of his party, founded in neighboring Iran in the early 1980s.

Al-Hakim, who has led his party since 2003, is believed to be in his late 50s or early 60s.

Read the rest at the Guardian

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