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Tariq Aziz — from top diplomat to death sentence

Here are some facts on Tariq Aziz, one of late dictator Saddam Hussein's most prominent deputies. He was sentenced to death on Tuesday by Iraq's high tribunal.
Image: Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz was born in the Christian village of Tal Keif near Mosul, northern Iraq. His presence in Saddam's government was often held up as evidence of the former Iraqi leader's religious tolerance. Ali Haider / EPA file
/ Source: Reuters

Here are some facts on Tariq Aziz, one of late dictator Saddam Hussein's most prominent deputies. He was sentenced to death on Tuesday by Iraq's high tribunal.

Saddam's diplomat

  • Aziz was appointed Iraq's minister of information in the 1970s. In 1977, he joined the Revolutionary Command Council, the committee of senior Baath party officials ruling Iraq. He became deputy prime minister in 1979.
  • Aziz featured prominently in all three of Iraq's wars. He helped to win U.S. support for Iraq in its 1980-1988 war with Iran and to forge strong economic ties with the Soviet Union.
  • Aziz came to further international prominence after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the crisis which ensued.
  • He played a leading diplomatic role in the run-up to the Gulf War when he was foreign minister, exhibiting faultless English, strong nerves and negotiating skills.
  • He dismissed a letter from then President George Bush, father of former President George W. Bush, to Saddam in 11th-hour talks in January 1991 because of its "humiliating" tone.
  • Days later, the U.S.-led coalition began a military campaign that ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
  • Subsequently Aziz traveled less, but still remained a prominent voice for the Iraqi leader. He officially appeared in public last on March 19, 2003, on the eve of the war to topple Saddam, to quell rumors he had been shot or defected.

Downfall

  • Aziz was number 43 on the U.S. most-wanted list of Iraqi officials when he gave himself up to U.S. forces in April 2003 just two weeks after Saddam was toppled.
  • Aziz appeared as a witness in earlier trials of ex-regime members, including Saddam.
  • At his first appearance to face charges in April 2008, Aziz looked frail and weak and used a walking stick.
  • In March 2009, he was sentenced to 15 years jail for his role in the execution of dozens of traders for breaking state price controls in 1992. Aziz was later sentenced to seven years in prison in August 2009 for his role in the forced displacement of Kurds from oil-rich northern Iraq during Saddam's rule.
  • Last January, he was hospitalized after suffering a stroke.

Life details

  • Aziz was born to a humble family on January 6, 1936, in the Christian village of Tal Keif near Mosul, northern Iraq. He is a Chaldean Christian, Iraq's biggest Christian group, and his presence in Saddam's government was often held up as evidence of the former Iraqi leader's religious tolerance.
  • He studied English literature at Baghdad University before pursuing a career in journalism. With Saddam's backing, he became editor of the Baath party's main newspaper, al-Thawra.
  • In the 1950s Aziz and Saddam were involved in the then-outlawed Baath party, which sought to oust the British-backed monarchy. Iraqis said he owed his political longevity in part to the fact that, as a Christian in a Muslim state, Aziz could never seriously threaten Saddam.
  • Aziz, who named his second son Saddam, survived an assassination attempt by Iranian-backed radicals in 1980.