March 11, 2009 / 11:32 AM / 9 years ago

FACTBOX: Iraq's former Deputy PM Aziz sentenced to 15 years

(Reuters) - Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, the public face of Saddam Hussein’s regime, was sentenced to 15 years jail on Wednesday for his role in the execution of dozens of traders for breaking state price controls in 1992.

Aziz, 73, was cleared earlier this month of involvement in the killing and displacing of Shi‘ite Muslims in 1999.

Here are some key facts on Saddam’s once loyal spokesman and public face of the regime:

DOWNFALL:

* Aziz was number 43 on the U.S. most-wanted list of Iraqi officials when he gave himself up to U.S. forces in April 2003 just two weeks after Saddam was toppled.

* Aziz appeared as a witness in earlier trials of ex-regime members, including Saddam.

* At his first appearance to face charges in April 2008 Aziz, looked frail and weak and used a walking stick.

SADDAM‘S DIPLOMAT:

* Aziz was appointed minister of information in the 1970s. In 1977 he joined the Revolutionary Command Council, the committee of senior Baath party officials ruling Iraq. He became deputy prime minister in 1979.

* Aziz has featured prominently in all three of Iraq’s wars. He helped to win U.S. support for Iraq in its 1980-1988 war with Iran, and to forge strong economic ties with the Soviet Union.

* Aziz came to further prominence in the world media after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the crisis which ensued.

* He played a starring diplomatic role in the run-up to the Gulf War when he was foreign minister, exhibiting faultless English, strong nerves and negotiating skills.

* He refused a letter from then President George Bush, father of former President George W. Bush, to Saddam in 11th-hour talks in Jan 1991 because of its “humiliating” tone.

* Days later, the U.S.-led coalition began a military campaign that ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

* Subsequently Aziz traveled less, but still remained a prominent voice for the Iraqi leader. He last officially appeared in public on March 19, 2003 on the eve of the war to topple Saddam, to quell rumors he had been shot or defected.

LIFE DETAILS:

* Aziz was born to a humble family on January 6, 1936, in the Christian village of Tal Keif near Mosul, northern Iraq. He is a Chaldean Christian, Iraq’s biggest Christian group, and his presence in Saddam’s government was often held up as evidence of the former Iraqi leader’s religious tolerance.

* He studied English literature at Baghdad University before pursuing a career in journalism. With Saddam’s backing, he became editor of the Baath party’s main newspaper, al-Thawra.

* In the 1950s Aziz and Saddam were involved in the then-outlawed Baath party, which sought to oust the British-backed monarchy. Iraqis said he owed his political longevity in part to the fact that, as a Christian in a Muslim state, Aziz could never seriously threaten Saddam.

* Aziz, who named his second son Saddam, survived an assassination attempt by Iranian-backed radicals in 1980.

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