Iraqi Shi'ite leader in U.S. for cancer treatment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Iraq’s biggest Shi’ite Party, is in the United States for lung cancer treatment, The Washington Post said on Saturday.

Hakim arrived in Houston on Thursday to meet with specialists at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the paper said, citing U.S. officials.

“U.S. officials said the cleric, 57, has been found to have lung cancer,” it said.

Hakim heads the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which is the biggest party in Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated government. He met with U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House in December.

Hakim’s party was founded in Iran and he lived there for years before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled President Saddam Hussein.

In Crawford, Texas, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the U.S. government provided transportation for Hakim to get to the United States for medical assistance. He had no details on Hakim’s condition or where he was being examined.

“I can confirm that the administration gave assistance to al-Hakim to get there,” Fratto said. “We fully expect to work with al-Hakim and his party in the future.”

The Post said “Vice President Dick Cheney played a role in arranging for Hakim to see U.S. military doctors in Baghdad, who made the original diagnosis, and for the current medical treatment in Houston.”