BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is able to speak and understand people around him as he recovers from a stroke he suffered in December, a doctor responsible for his medical care said Sunday.
In an interview, Dr. Najmaldin Karim described the improvement in the president's health as encouraging. Karim is a neurosurgeon who is also governor of the Iraqi province of Kirkuk. He oversees Talabani's medical care when he is in Iraq, although the president is currently in Germany for treatment.
"He's improving. He's talking. He's conversing. He understands when he's spoken to. It's a good development," Karim said. "We're very encouraged and excited by this."
Karim said he is in daily contact with Talabani's German medical team. He is hopeful Talabani will be able to return to Iraq, but acknowledged that any decision rests with the doctors treating him in Europe.
"We'll have to just take it one day at a time," he said.
The 79-year-old Talabani was rushed to a hospital late on Dec. 17 after suffering a stroke. Few specific details have been released about his health, fueling intense speculation about the seriousness of his condition and his ability to continue with his job. He was flown to a Berlin area hospital for further treatment shortly after his condition was stabilized.
No images of Talabani have been released since he fell ill, and he has not been heard from personally.
Some Iraqi officials and Baghdad-based diplomats have said he slipped into a coma shortly after the stroke happened, or was otherwise gravely incapacitated.