Michael Ware


YWT: Iraqi President health scare; VP target of bomb

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Length: 4:18

HALA GORANI: Well, topping the news this hour out of Iraq, threats to the health and safety of two of the country's top leaders. The president, Jalal Talabani, is in the intensive care unit of a Jordanian hospital.

JIM CLANCY: Now, there are conflicting reports from the hospital and from his family at this hour about his condition.

GORANI: Well, meanwhile, Iraq's Shiite vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, was injured in an apparent assassination attempt while making a speech at a ministry building. The bombing killed at least 12 people and wounded 42 others. Mahdi has been treated and was released from a hospital.

CLANCY: The 73-year-old Talabani was flown Sunday to Amman, Jordan, as what was termed a precautionary measure. That according to his son. Mr. Talabani's office says his condition is now completely normal and stable.

Well, joining us now for more details is Michael Ware.

Why should everyone be worried about the health of Jalal Talabani?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in many ways, Jim, certainly constitutionally, they really don't need to. I mean, this is a position that's given -- divided up under the constitution, and a replacement for Jalal Talabani can quickly be found.

And let's remember, under the constitution and parliamentary system that's been established here in Iraq, executive power does not lie with the president, nor indeed with the wounded Shia vice president, or his Sunni vice presidential counterpart. Executive power resides with the prime minister and the cabinet, with the various ministers.

So, in many ways, whatever happens with the president -- the position of the president at this stage and his health will remind a key concern in this country and will be watched attentively. But in terms of the conduct of the war here, and in terms of the business of government, very little will change regardless -- Jim.

CLANCY: You know, Michael, though, as you look at it and you remember Jalal Talabani's famous and brave trip to Baghdad to negotiate for Kurdish autonomy with Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf war, often seen as an inspiration, he's certainly seen as the elder statesman of the country.

WARE: Very much. I mean, and you need to bear in mind that President Talabani is an ethnic Kurd. Yet, nonetheless, to a certain degree, he has been able to rise above some of the ethnic divides here between Kurds and Arabs.

However, nonetheless, Arabs, be they Sunni and Shia -- and again, we've become all too familiar thanks to the civil war of the multitude of breakdowns within those communities -- still regard the Kurds within their own country cautiously. Of course, Jalal Talabani, coming from the PUK faction of the dominant Kurdish government in the north, long protected by coalition no-fly zones since the first Gulf war, has an ongoing relationship with Iran, too, something that western intelligence has raised.

So, Jalal Talabani is a figure of incredible import, both historically and in terms of influence it endures today -- Jim.

CLANCY: On another level, right now, perhaps a day when many Iraqis are just wondering where the security situation in their country is going here, when the top leadership can be targeted -- they're vulnerable from ordinary illness as well.

WARE: That's right. I mean, we see constitutionally, two out of three of the most symbolically important positions -- the president and two vice presidents -- have received medical treatment in the past 24 hours.

Now, whilst it may be a health scare that has stricken the president, Jalal Talabani, it's something far more sinister that has struck the Shia vice president, Adel Abdul al-Mahdi. He's been the victim of a bombing today within a ministry. This is being seen potentially as a direct strike against one of the most powerful Shia political blocks in this country that American intelligence says is linked to Iranian intelligence -- Jim.

CLANCY: Michael Ware reporting for us live on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq.

Thank you, Michael -- Hala.