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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: REVITALIZING THE ZOO; MALIKI
TRAVELING; AL QAEDA MESSAGE

Premier leaves Iraq for checkup

December 30, 2007|Alexandra Zavis | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki flew to London on Saturday for what he said was a routine medical checkup.

Two aides denied wire reports that Maliki, who has faced increasing criticism for presiding over a paralyzed government, was suffering from exhaustion.

They said the prime minister had wanted to get a checkup for some time and had decided to take advantage of a recent ebb in violence to make the trip. He is expected to return to Iraq within days, said Yassin Majid, the prime minister's media advisor.

In video broadcast on state-run Al Iraqiya television, Maliki appeared healthy as he walked from the airport terminal to his private plane.

"It has been awhile, and I wanted to have some medical checks done to check my health, so that is why I am leaving Baghdad," Maliki said before boarding the plane.

His departure came the day before the parliament reconvenes. Among the legislation it will consider are controversial laws governing the distribution of oil proceeds and easing employment restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime, which have tied up Maliki's government for months.

This summer, the main Sunni Arab alliance pulled most of its members out of Maliki's Shiite-led Cabinet, accusing him of refusing to share power. Followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr also have quit the government, citing Maliki's refusal to set a timeline for the departure of U.S.-led troops.

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alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Saif Rasheed contributed to this report.

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