Tehran: The leader of Iraq`s largest Shiite party, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, died in a Tehran hospital today aged 60 after a long battle with lung
cancer, five months ahead of key parliamentary elections.
"He died a few minutes ago after battling cancer for 28 months," his son Mohsen Hakim told agencies. He and his brother Ammar had been at their father`s bedside.
Hakim, a cleric who helped establish an opposition movement in exile in Iran in 1982 to battle Saddam Hussein`s Sunni-dominated regime, returned to Iraq after the US-led invasion of 2003.
His Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council swept Shiite areas in first provincial elections after the invasion but in new elections this January the party suffered major losses to the rival list of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"The body of the head of the SIIC will be transferred to Najaf and the details of the mourning ceremony will be announced in due course," Mohsen Hakim told Iran`s Fars news agency, referring to the central Iraqi shrine city where Shiites from around the world are traditionally brought for burial.
Hakim, a former heavy smoker, was admitted to hospital on Saturday after he developed a "medical complication", the son told AFP on Monday.
The cleric, who had been in Tehran for treatment for more than four months, had undergone frequent medical check-ups in the Iranian capital in the past and even visited the United States to see lung cancer specialists.