January 17, 2010 / 4:28 PM / 10 years ago

Saddam official Tareq Aziz hospitalized, son says

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Tareq Aziz, a former deputy prime minister who was the public face of Saddam Hussein’s regime, suffered a blood clot in the brain and was moved from prison to an American military hospital, his son said on Sunday.

A video grab shows former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz attending his trial in a courtroom in Baghdad April 29, 2008. REUTERS/Reuters TV

The U.S. military said Aziz was taken to an American military hospital in Baghdad on Thursday for examination but would not say why due to medical privacy rules. “His condition is improving and he is still being closely monitored,” Lieutenant Colonel Pat Johnson said in a statement.

Aziz, 74, rose to prominence around the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War when he was Saddam’s foreign minister.

The only Christian in the government’s inner circle, he had a high profile, exhibiting faultless English and strong negotiating skills. Aziz gave himself up to invading U.S. forces in April 2003, two weeks after Saddam was ousted.

Aziz’s son, Ziad Tareq Aziz, said his father apparently suffered a stroke last Friday. He said he was getting his information from another prisoner at the U.S. detention facility where his father was being held.

“It was a brain clot,” Ziad Tareq Aziz said. “Today we were told that he has been moved to an American military hospital and that he suffered a second brain stroke that made him lose his ability to talk.”

Aref Abdul-Razzaq al-Shahin, head of the Iraqi High Tribunal, said Aziz was taken to a U.S. hospital a few days ago but he did not know the exact nature of his medical problem.

“We expect the U.S. will deliver a report to us. Aziz is still a part of many trials of our court,” he said.

Aziz was sentenced to seven years in prison last August for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds from oil-rich northern Iraq during Saddam’s rule.

Five months earlier he received a sentence of 15 years for his part in the killings of dozens of merchants in 1992.

The traders were executed after being accused of hiking the price of goods in violation of state price controls when Iraq’s economy was collapsing as a result of U.N. sanctions.

Reporting Khalid al-Ansary and Waleed Ibrahim, writing by Jim Loney; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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