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Tariq Aziz, also Tareq Aziz (Arabic طارق عزيز), born 1936, was the former Foreign Minister (1979-1991) and Deputy Prime Minister (1979-2003) of Iraq and a close advisor to President Saddam Hussein for decades. Their association began in the 1950s, when both were Ba'ath party activists, while the party was still officially banned.
Yuhanna studied English at the Baghdad College of Fine Arts and later worked as a journalist, before joining the Ba'ath Party. He changed his name to Tariq Aziz, which means "Venerable Path". In 1980 he survived an Iranian-backed assassination attempt. Saddam's government used this as a justification to declare war on Iran, leading to the Iran-Iraq War.
Since Saddam was both Prime Minister and President of Iraq, Aziz often played the role of Iraq's de facto head of government. Because of security concerns Saddam rarely left Iraq, and Aziz in turn would often represent Iraq at high-level diplomatic summits. In December 2002, Aziz called the arms inspection a "hoax" and war "inevitable". What the US wanted, he averred, was not "regime change" in Iraq but rather "region change." He tersely summed up the Bush Administration reasons for war against Iraq: "oil and Israel.'"
On February 14, 2003, Aziz had an audience with Pope John Paul II and other officials in Vatican City, where, according to a Vatican statement, he communicated "the wish of the Iraqi government to co-operate with the international community, notably on disarmament". The same statement said that the Pope "insisted on the necessity for Iraq to faithfully respect and give concrete commitments to resolutions of the UN Security Council, which is the guarantor of international law".
On March 19, 2003, reports surfaced from Iraq that Aziz had been shot dead while trying to enter the Kurdish part of the country. The rumor was quashed rather quickly when Aziz held a press conference assuring the world he was still alive and well. After the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, his home was quickly looted by Iraqis, apparently stripping it of any incriminating documentation as well. He surrendered to United States forces on April 24, 2003. He was the 43rd of 55 most-wanted Iraqi leadership members sought by U.S. forces after the Fall of Baghdad in the 2003 Iraq War. Before the war, Aziz claimed he would rather die than be a U.S. prisoner of war: "Do you expect me, after all my history as a militant and as one of the Iraqi leaders, to go to an American prison -- to go to Guantanamo? I would rather die," he told Britain's ITV. His attorney was expected to be Jacques Verges.
- Aziz the 'eight of spades' - CNN, April 25, 2003
- Tariq Aziz faces US questions - BBC, April 25, 2003
- Tariq Aziz Profile - BBC, October 11, 2002
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