Iraqi president to return from medical exile

Talabani has long struggled with various health problems

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Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who has been in Germany for medical treatment since December 2012, will return home on Saturday, his party said in a statement.

“President Talabani is coming home on Saturday July 19 after receiving successful health treatment in brotherly Germany,” the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan statement said on Friday.

“He is going to resume his duties as president of the Republic of Iraq,” the PUK said.

His son Qubad Talabani, who is also deputy prime minister of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, confirmed his 80-year-old father’s homecoming.

“President Talabani will return to Iraq tomorrow. I congratulate the people on his improved health and on his return,” he told AFP.

Talabani has been Iraq’s head of state since 2005, as part of an unofficial power-sharing deal reserving the post of president for the Kurds.

His return comes as Iraq is in the grips of its worst crisis in years, with jihadist-led Sunni militants controlling large swathes of the country’s west and north.

Recent weeks have also seen escalating tensions between the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Talabani’s old rival Massud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdish region.

Kurdish peshmerga forces seized long-disputed territory when federal forces withdrew in the face of the militant onslaught launched on June 9.

The move significantly expanded the area under Kurdish control to include the key city of Kirkuk, which many Kurds see as an important part of their statehood dream, and several oilfields.

Maliki has accused the Kurds of undermining national unity, taking advantage of the Islamic State jihadist group’s offensive and even of harboring some its operatives.

Talabani has long struggled with various health problems, and recent years saw him make frequent trips to the United States and Europe.

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