Tariq Aziz, loyal Saddam Hussein defender, dies aged 79

Tariq Aziz, the debonair Iraqi diplomat who made his name by staunchly defending Saddam Hussein to the world during three wars and who was later sentenced to death as part of the regime that killed hundreds of thousands of its own people, has died in a hospital in southern Iraq, officials said. He was 79.

Tariq Aziz, loyal Saddam Hussein defender, dies aged 79

Aziz died yesterday after he was taken to the al-Hussein hospital in the city of Nasiriyah, about 320km south-east of Baghdad, according to the provincial governor Yahya al-Nassiri. Aziz had been in custody in a prison in the south, awaiting execution.

Aziz was Saddam’s regime’s international face for years. He was sentenced in October 2010 to hang for persecuting members of the Shi’ite Muslim religious parties that now dominate Iraq.

A Baghdad government official confirmed the death of Aziz.

Al-Nassiri, the governor of Dhi Qar province where Nasiriyah is the capital, said Aziz’s wife Violet had visited him on Thursday in prison and spent about an hour with him. Aziz had suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure for a long time, and he was a chain smoker, the governor added.

The only Christian among Saddam’s inner circle, Aziz’s religion rescued him from the hangman’s noose that was the fate of other members of the top regime leadership.

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