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Iraqi president has a stroke

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad, Iraq.

ALI HAIDER/EPA

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad, Iraq.

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, has suffered a stroke and was in intensive care at a Baghdad hospital Tuesday, injecting new uncertainty into the country’s political future a year after the US military left.

Although his official powers are limited, Talabani, 79, is respected by many Iraqis as a rare unifying figure seen as able to rise above the ethnic and sectarian rifts that divide the country. Talabani has been actively involved in trying to mediate an ongoing crisis between Iraq’s central government and the country’s ethnic Kurdish minority, from which he hails.

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Iraqi state TV and several officials, including the prime minister’s spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, confirmed that Talabani had a stroke. One hospital official said the president was in a coma, but reports varied on the severity of the stroke.

Talabani’s spokesman, Nasser al-Ani, said the president is in stable condition. Medical ­officials who appeared with him did not take questions.

‘‘The president’s health is being closely followed up by our medical team. The vital organs are working and we hope that there will be no deterioration,’’ said Dr. Ayad Abbas from the intensive care unit.

The presidential office initially said Tuesday that Talabani was hospitalized the previous evening after showing signs of fatigue. A later statement cited tests showing he is suffering from a condition caused by a hardening of his arteries, but did not identify the condition.

Some media reports suggested that Talabani had died, but Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that was not the case.

Rifle-toting soldiers assigned to the presidential guard were deployed around Medical City, Baghdad’s largest medical complex, where Talabani is being treated. A number of senior government officials and lawmakers rushed to the hospital to check on his condition.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was among those who stopped by to check on the president, according to his spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi.

Medical teams from Germany and Britain are expected to arrive and will decide whether the president’s condition is serious enough for him to be sent abroad for treatment, Mutlaq said.

Turkey offered to send an ambulance jet that could transport Talabani for treatment, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

He suggested that the Iraqis had not responded to the offer. ‘‘It is up to them to decide,’’ he said, adding that the information he had received was that Talabani was ‘‘seriously indisposed.’’

Word of Talabani’s illness trickled out exactly a year after the last US troops rolled out of Iraq. Their departure on Dec. 18, 2011, ended a nearly nine-year war that left more than 100,000 Iraqis and nearly 4,500 Americans dead.

Talabani is overweight and has undergone a number of medical procedures in recent years.

He had heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in 2008 and has returned to the Minnesota institution for treatment, including this past March. Over the summer, he underwent knee-replacement surgery in Germany.

The Iraqi presidency is a largely ceremonial post, though it does retain some powers under Iraq’s constitution, such as the ability to block executions.

Talabani has frequently used his position to mediate disputes within the government and among Iraq’s sects and ethnic groups. He has recently been working to resolve a standoff between the central government and the Kurds, who have their own fighting force.

The two sides last month moved additional troops into disputed areas along the Kurds’ self-rule northern region, prompting fears that fighting could break out.

Talabani brokered a deal last week that calls on both sides to withdraw troops from contested areas, but with no timetable.

Talabani met with Maliki before falling ill Monday. They agreed that Maliki would invite a Kurdish delegation to Baghdad to continue the talks, according to the prime minister’s office.

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