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Abdel-Rahman Aref, 91; Iraqi leader overthrown by Hussein's Baath Party

August 25, 2007|From Times Wire Reports

Former Iraqi President Abdel-Rahman Aref, 91, overthrown more than 35 years ago in a coup that brought Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to power, died at a hospital in Amman, Jordan, early Friday. The cause of death was not announced.

Aref settled in Jordan after leaving Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Hussein in 2003.

Aref rose to power in 1963, five years after the bloody overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy, when his elder brother, then-President Abdel-Salam Aref, appointed him army chief of staff.

Three years later, the brother died in a helicopter crash, and Iraqi army officers -- said to have been supported by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser -- chose the younger Aref to become Iraq's third president. The helicopter crash was believed to be sabotage.

Aref was president until 1968, when he was toppled in a bloodless coup by the Baath Party, led at the time by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who became Iraq's next president. But Hussein was believed to have held behind-the-scenes power in the coup and later, until formally taking over the government in 1979.

After his removal, Aref lived in exile in Istanbul, Turkey, before he was allowed by Hussein to return to Baghdad in the late 1980s.

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