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Originally published Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 3:42 PM

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Iraqi president said to be recovering from stroke

A reassuring statement about Iraq President Jalal Talabani’s health followed a report late Friday in the French newspaper Le Figaro that described him as “clinically dead.”

The Associated Press

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BAGHDAD – Iraq’s ailing president is responding to treatment and is making progress in recovering from a stroke last month, the leader’s office said Saturday.

The statement described Jalal Talabani’s condition as “reassuring” and said his medical team has started him on a course of rehabilitation. The statement did not provide details about the president’s current health, nor did it say whether he is able to communicate.

The president’s office released the statement after a report late Friday in the French newspaper Le Figaro that described Talabani as “clinically dead,” citing unnamed Kurdish officials. Talabani’s office rejected the report, calling it “totally baseless.”

Talabani, 79, was flown to Germany for treatment more than two weeks ago. The Berlin hospital where he is being treated declined Saturday to comment on Talabani’s health, citing patient confidentiality. It would only confirm that he is being treated there.

Telephone calls to Talabani’s spokesman went unanswered.

Questions have swirled about the seriousness of the president’s condition, with several officials saying the Kurdish leader slipped into a coma soon after he was taken to a Baghdad hospital late Dec. 17. No images of him have been released since that date.

The Iraqi presidency is a largely ceremonial role, with the prime minister acting as the head of government. But Talabani has at times played an important role in mediating disputes among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian factions.

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