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.