Timeline: A look at Iraqi president Talabani

Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:05pm EST

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(Reuters) - Here is a timeline on Iraq's Kurdish President, Jalal Talabani, 79, who suffered a stroke on Tuesday and was hospitalized in Baghdad.

Talabani, who has spent most of his life fighting for the cause of the Kurds in northern Iraq, is the first non-Arab president of an Arab country.

1947-1959 - Talabani joins the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), trains as a lawyer and becomes an inner member of the party - a top lieutenant to Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the patriarch of Iraqi Kurdish nationalism and the founder of the KDP, now led by his son Masoud Barzani. In the 1960s, Talabani undertakes numerous diplomatic missions, representing the Kurdish leadership at meetings in Europe and the Middle East.

1974 - Splits from the KDP.

1975 - Forms his own party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), in Damascus. A year later he begins organizing armed resistance inside Iraq. During the 1980s, Talabani leads the Kurdish struggle from bases inside Iraq until Saddam Hussein's brutal genocidal "Anfal" campaign of 1987 and 1988. Talabani is forced to leave Iraq.

1991 - U.S.-led forces start Gulf War with air attacks on Iraq and occupied Kuwait. After the war, with Saddam weakened, the Kurds rise up against Baghdad and manage to carve out an autonomous zone in northeastern Iraq, at arm's length from the regime. But Talabani and Barzani spar over control of a Kurdish regional government, and the bickering escalates into a civil war that sees the KDP enlist Baghdad's help against the PUK.

March 2003 - U.S. and British forces invade Iraq from Kuwait. After Saddam's overthrow, Talabani becomes a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, which develops Iraq's interim constitution.

April 2005 - Talabani becomes Iraq's first elected president in more than 50 years after the Kurds form a powerful voting bloc in the Iraqi legislature and is selected again a year later as a national unity government is put together.

January 2007 - Talabani, on the first trip to Syria by an Iraqi head of state for 30 years, meets President Bashar al-Assad to focus on stabilizing Iraq and preventing insurgents crossing their long and porous border.

March 2007 - Talabani returns to Iraq after two weeks in hospital in Amman to recover from exhaustion. In May 2007, Talabani, fighting obesity, checks into the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for a series of medical tests.

March 2009 - Talabani says the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the Turkish separatist guerrilla group, must lay down its arms or quit Iraq. His remarks are seen as some of the toughest made by an Iraqi leader against the PKK, whose guerrillas have used northern Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks in Turkey, straining ties between Baghdad and Ankara.

November 2010 - Iraqi lawmakers vote to keep Talabani as president. He nominates Nuri al-Maliki to remain as prime minister, following an agreement that ended eight months of political deadlock.

Sources: Reuters/www.kurdishaspect.com/www.britannica.com

(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

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