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Iraqi officials: Tariq Aziz, Saddam's top aide sentenced to death, dies in hospital in Iraq

  • FILE - FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2010 file photo, Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's long time foreign minister, speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Officials say Aziz has died in a hospital in southern Iraq on Friday, June 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

    FILE - FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2010 file photo, Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's long time foreign minister, speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Officials say Aziz has died in a hospital in southern Iraq on Friday, June 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2010 file photo, Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's long time foreign minister, speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Officials say Aziz has died in a hospital in southern Iraq on Friday, June 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

    FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2010 file photo, Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's long time foreign minister, speaks to the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Officials say Aziz has died in a hospital in southern Iraq on Friday, June 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 2, 1998 file photo, former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz stands to attention as the Iraqi national anthem is played at a conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Officials say Aziz has died in a hospital in southern Iraq on Friday, June 5, 2015.  (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

    FILE - In this Dec. 2, 1998 file photo, former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz stands to attention as the Iraqi national anthem is played at a conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Officials say Aziz has died in a hospital in southern Iraq on Friday, June 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)  (The Associated Press)

Iraqi officials say former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's top aide who was sentenced to death, has died of a heart attack in a hospital in southern Iraq. Aziz was 79.

Provincial governor Yahya al-Nassiri says Aziz died on Friday afternoon after he was taken to the al-Hussein hospital in the city of Nasiriyah, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, when he fell ill.

Aziz was the highest-ranking Christian in Saddam's regime was the international face of Saddam's regime for years. He was sentenced in October 2010 to hang for persecuting members of the Shiite Muslim religious parties that now dominate Iraq.

A Baghdad government official confirmed the death of Aziz. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.