Former Iraqi PM dead

A long-time ally of Saddam Hussein and one of the top Iraq Baath party leaders - who also served as a rare Shiite prime minister under Saddam – has died in a hospital in Germany, a Baath party spokesman and the party’s website say.

Saadoun Hammadi was released from a prison camp in Iraq in February 2004, after nine months in the custody of US troops. He left Iraq for medical treatment in Jordan, Lebanon and Germany, but settled in Qatar in early 2005.

He was believed to be suffering from leukaemia.

Mr Hammadi died late on Wednesday night in a German hospital, party spokesman Hisham Odeh said in Amman. The spokesman said he was told of the news by a friend of the Hammadi family in Qatar.

The Baath party webite reported his death yesterday. There were no further details.

Under Saddam, Hammadi held the posts of foreign and oil minister, and was the last speaker of the Iraqi parliament up to the 2003 US invasion.

He joined the Baath party in his Shiite home town Karbala in mid 1940s, climbing the party ladder steadily. He served as oil minister and foreign minister before becoming prime minister in March 1991, after Saddam crushed a Shiite uprising following Iraq’s defeat in Kuwait. He was the parliament speaker from 1996 until the 2003 fall of Saddam’s regime.

A US-educated proponent of economic liberalisation and reforms, Hammadi got a PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin in 1956.

In his drive to stay in power following Kuwait defeat, Saddam sought to portray himself as more politically flexible and relinquished the prime minister’s post to install Hammadi in it.

But within six months, Saddam had sacked Hammadi, after the new prime minister spoke up for reforms and democracy, and also publicly humiliated him by demoting him to the lowest party ranks. Hammadi accepted the move without complaint and continued to be loyal. Five years on, he was brought back to the limelight as parliament speaker.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately known. Mr Hammadi is survived by a wife and a son.

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