Former Iraqi president dies

Former Iraqi President Abdel-Rahman Aref, overthrown more than 35 years ago in a coup that brought Saddam Hussein's Baath party to power, died in Amman early Friday at the age of 91, an Iraqi diplomat in Jordan said.

Former Iraqi president dies
Former Iraqi President Abdel-Rahman Aref, overthrown more than 35 years ago in a coup that brought Saddam Hussein's Baath party to power, died in Amman early Friday at the age of 91, an Iraqi diplomat in Jordan said.

Aref died at the King Hussein Medical Center in the Jordanian capital at dawn, Iraqi charge d'affaires in Amman, Tahseen Alwan Ina, told The Associated Press.

Aref's family, most of whom live in Jordan, had called to inform him of the death, Ina said. The diplomat had no details on Aref's health or circumstances of his death.

Aref, whose rule was considered weak, had settled in Jordan after leaving Iraq following the U.S. -led invasion that toppled Saddam in 2003.

He rose to power in 1963, five years after the bloody overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy when his elder brother, then Iraq's President Abdel-Salam Aref, appointed him army chief of staff.

Three years later, the brother died in a plane crash and Iraqi army officers, said to have been supported by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser, chose the younger Aref to become Iraq's third president. The plane crash was believed to be a sabotage.

Aref was president until 1968, when he was toppled in a bloodless coup by the Baath Party, led at the time by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr who became Iraq's next president. But Saddam was believed to have held behind-the-scenes power in the coup and later, until formally taking over the government in 1979.

The reports on the coup said that in the early hours of July 17, 1968, as Aref slept, Defense Minister Hardan al-Tikriti reportedly entered the palace and phoned him to tell him he was no longer president.

Aref was then hustled onto a plane to London, from where he made his way to Istanbul, Turkey, where he lived 11 years in exile before he was allowed by Saddam to return in the late 1980s to live out a quiet life in the Iraqi capital.

In 2004, the post-Saddam Iraqi interim government said it would pay Aref a monthly pension and allocated some funds for his medical treatment in Jordan. It was never made public what kind of health problems Aref suffered.

Aref's sister, Sabiha, was killed in 2004 by flying glass from an exploding car bomb near her Baghdad home.

In a rare interview after Saddam's overthrow, Aref urged Iraqis to forget the past and work for a better future.

"I hope there will be stability and security in all parts of Iraq and neighboring Arab countries. I hope they will flourish," Aref told The AP in Baghdad in 2003. "I hope there will be national unity in Iraq by forgetting the past and looking for the future."

Aref is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters.

Ina said he would meet the family on Saturday to decide on funeral arrangements.

AP
Last Mod: 24 Ağustos 2007, 19:15
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