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Iraq President Talabani 'stable' after stroke

Mike Segar / Reuters, file

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, seen here in September 2011, is in the hospital for a medical 'emergency'.

Updated at 9:45 a.m. ET: BAGHDAD - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- a Kurd who has been a key player in mediating during the country's political crisis -- was in hospital on Tuesday after suffering a stroke that left him in "stable" condition, a lawmaker said.  

Three un-named government sources said he was in critical condition, but his office said the 79-year-old president was stable under intensive medical supervision after receiving treatment for blocked arteries. 

Without Talabani, Iraq would lose an influential peace-maker who often eased tensions in the fragile power-sharing government and negotiated in the growing rift over oil between Baghdad and the OPEC member country's autonomous Kurdistan region. 

"President Talabani has suffered a light stroke. His condition is stable now and doctors are closely monitoring him and if they decide he should be transferred outside then he'll go," veteran Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman, a close Talabani associate who was in the Baghdad hospital. 

Talabani had been suffering from ill health much of this year and received medical treatment overseas several times in the last two years.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited the hospital earlier on Tuesday.

Blasts hit Iraq's Kirkuk, disputed territories

Under Iraq's constitution, the parliament should elect a new president if the post becomes vacant and Iraq's power-sharing deal calls for the presidency to go to a Kurd while two vice presidents are shared by a Sunni Muslim and a Shi'ite Muslim. 

Political analysts said former Kurdistan prime minister Barham Salih is favored candidate to replace Talabani should the president be incapacitated.

But his exit from Iraqi politics would come at a sensitive time and any succession would be complicated, a year after the last American troops left the country. 

One year after the U.S. military pullout, Iraq teeters between statehood and failure. NBC News' Jim Maceda reports.

"He is the most moderate among Iraqi politicians and the most able to defuse political shocks. I do not think any one will be able to fill his position as a president and as a politician," Iraqi analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie said. 

Iraq law would see one of the vice presidents take over Talabani's duties before the parliamentary vote. But Iraq's Sunni Vice President, Tareq al-Hashemi, is a fugitive outside of the country after he fled to escape charges he ran death squads. He was sentenced to death in absentia.

A veteran of the Kurdish guerrilla movement, Talabani survived wars, exile and infighting in northern Iraq to become the country's first Kurdish president a few years after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. 

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