On Feb. 18, Talabani's office issued a statement saying the president continues to respond well to therapy. Two presidential officials reached Sunday declined to comment, saying that Karim is the only person authorized to discuss Talabani's condition.
The Iraqi presidency is a largely ceremonial role, with the prime minister acting as the head of government. But Talabani is seen by many Iraqis as something of a unifying statesman, and he has at times played an important role in mediating disputes among the country's ethnic and sectarian factions.
Talabani became ill at a particularly crucial moment in Iraqi politics. His stroke occurred while he was trying to calm an ongoing dispute between the central government and Iraq's Kurdish ethnic minority, from which he hails. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims have been rallying for nearly two months against the Shiite-led government, increasing sectarian tensions nearly a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.
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