Key Shiite leader travels to U.S. for medical care
160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! BAGHDAD – The leader of the most powerful Shiite party in Iraq has flown to the United States for further tests to determine if he is suffering from lung cancer, members of his staff said Saturday. Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim traveled to the United States on Wednesday after U.S. military doctors advised him to undergo further tests, according to staff members who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the issue to the media. Al-Hakim is a key player in Iraqi politics and despite his close ties to Iran, he has been a major partner in U.S. efforts to build a democratic system after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. American efforts to push through major reforms such as a new oil law and expanded opportunities for Sunnis in government would face even more hurdles without al-Hakim’s active support. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also was traveling to the United States for a medical checkup at the Mayo Clinic, a senior Kurdish politician close to the Iraqi leader said Saturday. The 73-year-old Sunni Kurd was hospitalized in Jordan for about two weeks.