Ailing Iraq president leaves for treatment in Germany

BAGHDAD Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:35am EST

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has left a Baghdad hospital and is being transferred to Germany for treatment after suffering a stroke earlier this week, his office said on Thursday.

The 79-year-old Kurdish statesman was admitted to hospital on Monday night.

He has often mediated among Iraqi Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, and in a growing dispute over oil between Baghdad and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region.

"Treatment has allowed suitable conditions for his excellency to be transferred outside the country," the statement said, adding that Talabani's health had improved.

It was uncertain whether he would be able to return to his post, and his potential exit from politics is raising concerns about what could be a messy succession battle.

A year after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, the Arab-led central government and the Kurdish region are increasingly divided over oil and land in a rift that threatens to escalate into open conflict.

Just days before he was hospitalized, Talabani had negotiated between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Kurdistan authorities after both sent troops to face off along an internal border where they have laid rival claims to ethnically mixed territories.

(Reporting by Aseel Kami; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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