Iraq’s Tariq Aziz, Longtime Defender of Saddam Hussein, Dies

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Former diplomat had been the international face of the Saddam regime
BAGHDAD— Tariq Aziz, a former deputy prime minister of Iraq who served as the face of Saddam Hussein’s regime to the West, died Friday in an Iraqi hospital. He was 79 years old.
In a photo from Sept. 3, 1990, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz slams a book of United Nations resolutions during a news conference in Moscow. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mr. Aziz was the highest-ranking Christian member in the Sunni-dominated regime of Mr. Hussein, who was deposed during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Mr. Aziz served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister in that regime.

Mr. Aziz was a fierce defender of Mr. Hussein, using his fluency in English to communicate with foreign governments for more than two decades.

He also served as the point man for United Nations inspectors tracking and dismantling weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Mr. Aziz had been in prison since 2010 serving what had originally been a death sentence for complicity in the execution and persecution of members of Shiite political parties.


Tariq Aziz Is in U.S. Custody, Was Public Face of Regime (April 25, 2003)
Justice in Iraq (March 4, 2009)
Iraq’s Aziz Faces Death Sentence (Oct. 27, 2010)
That sentence was effectively waived after Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s president at the time, refused to sign the order, citing Mr. Aziz’s age and religion.

The Vatican also asked for mercy for Mr. Aziz.

Yonadem Kanna, a Christian lawmaker from the same Chaldean sect, said Mr. Aziz’s body would be delivered to his family.

Family members living in Amman, Jordan, told the Associated Press on Friday that he was in poor health at the time of his death as a result of strokes, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Even in death, Mr. Aziz remained a divisive figure in Iraq.


In a photo from Jan. 29, 1998, Tariq Aziz, left, greets President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.PHOTO: IRAQI NEWS AGENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Adel al-Dhekeili, a local official in the Shiite-majority Dhi Qar province where Mr. Aziz died, said Friday that “we in the south resent anyone belonging to Saddam’s regime because of the suffering we experienced.”

‘We will receive them with the best music they have ever heard and the best flowers that have ever grown in Iraq. We don’t have candy; we can only offer them bullets’

—Tariq Aziz said during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003

Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean church, said “for the sake of reconciliation, there should be forgiveness to end all conflicts and to forget the past and start a new Iraq.”

—Ghassan Adnan contributed to this article.

Write to Nour Malas at