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Tariq Aziz, top aide to Saddam Hussein, dies in hospital

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Tariq Aziz, top aide to Saddam Hussein, dies in hospital
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Baghdad: Tariq Aziz, the debonair Iraqi diplomat who made his name by staunchly defending Saddam Hussein to the world during three wars and 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.

Aziz, who had been in custody in a prison in the south awaiting execution, died Friday afternoon after he was taken to the al-Hussein hospital in the city of Nasiriyah following a heart attack, according to the provincial governor, Yahya al-Nassiri.

Aziz, the highest-ranking Christian in Saddam's regime, was its international face for years. He was sentenced in 2010 to hang for persecuting members of the Shiite Muslim religious parties that now dominate Iraq.

His wife, Violet, had visited him in prison Thursday, their daughter Zeinab told The Associated Press in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where most of the family lives.

Her father had suffered several strokes that left him confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak during their parents' final meeting, she said.

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