AP: The leader of Iraq’s largest Shiite party has been diagnosed with lung cancer and has gone to Iran to seek immediate treatment, officials close to him said Sunday. Associated Press
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD (AP) – The leader of Iraq’s largest Shiite party has been diagnosed with lung cancer and has gone to Iran to seek immediate treatment, officials close to him said Sunday.
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq since 2003, has been a key player in Iraqi politics and a major partner in U.S.-backed efforts to build a democratic system after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Attempts to push through major reforms such as a new revenue-sharing oil law, constitutional amendments and expanded opportunities for Sunnis in Iraq’s government would face even more obstacles without al-Hakim’s active support.
Al-Hakim flew suddenly to the United States on Wednesday for tests after doctors at a U.S.-run hospital in Iraq detected signs of cancer in one of his lungs. The diagnosis was confirmed at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the officials said.
Early Sunday, al-Hakim left the U.S. for Iran, where he will receive chemotherapy treatment, the officials said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Al-Hakim lived in exile in Iran for more than two decades. His party was founded there in the early 1980s.
News of al-Hakim’s diagnosis came hours after another key Iraqi leader, 73-year-old Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also flew to the U.S. for a medical checkup. Talabani was hospitalized in Jordan nearly three months ago after collapsing with what doctors called exhaustion and dehydration from lung and sinus infections.