updated 12/29/2007 11:39:19 AM ET 2007-12-29T16:39:19

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flew to London on Saturday for what one of his advisers described as a regularly scheduled medical checkup, but an official in his office said it was treatment for exhaustion.

The official said al-Maliki, 57, would also undergo a series of routine checkups, including tests on his heart.

"He is suffering from mild exhaustion. He is also going to have a heart scan," the official said. "He should have gone to London for the checkup more than a month ago but he waited until after Eid (the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast). Now he has a good opportunity to go for the checkup."

State television showed al-Maliki, who has been in office since May 2006, boarding his private plane at Baghdad international airport. He appeared healthy and walked to the plane from the terminal building.

"I am going for some routine medical checkups and I hope to return soon," al-Maliki told a reporter on the tarmac.

Meeting with British officials?
A British Foreign Office spokesman in London said he understood Maliki was on his way to London for medical treatment. He had no further details.

Maliki's Shiite Islamist-led government has been paralyzed for months by infighting between the major sectarian and ethnic blocs that has largely stalled progress towards national reconciliation.

He has been under pressure from Washington to speed up the passage of laws seen as crucial to easing sectarian tensions and reconciling Iraq's warring sects. Sunni Arabs withdrew from his government earlier this year, accusing him of being too sectarian.

Yassin Majeed said al-Maliki had delayed a previous trip because the "security situation did not allow it." He added that although the visit was private "he might meet British officials." No other details were available.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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