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Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s Ex-Foreign Minister, Dies in Iraq Prison

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz speaks to an Egyptian delegation in Baghdad on February 25, 2003. Reuters

CAIRO, Egypt - Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former foreign minister and deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein’s regime has died in prison aged 79, Iraqi officials told NBC News.

Aziz, who had been suffering from health problems, was awaiting execution at the Nasiriyah jail when he suffered a heart attack at around 1p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET), said Yahia al-Nasary, the governor of the Di Qua province, which is home to the prison.

Although he was taken to a nearby teaching hospital, doctors were unable to save him, he added.

Known for his love of cigars and heavy set black glasses, Aziz rose to prominence during the first Gulf War in 1991, when he served as foreign minister.

In 2003, he met Pope John Paul II in the Vatican to call for peace before U.S. led forces invaded Iraq.

He surrendered to American troops in 2003 shortly after the fall of Baghdad.

Henry Austin reported from London.