Iraq president arrives in U.S
( AP ) - President Jalal Talabani left Iraq for a nearly three-week trip to the United States that was expected to include a medical checkup.
Talabani, a 73-year-old Sunni Kurd, boarded a plane in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. He arrived Sunday night in Rochester, Minn., where he left a car surrounded by several security guards and entered the Mayo Clinic, local television showed.
"I will go to the U.S.A and stay nearly three weeks to lose weight and have some rest and relaxation ... away from meetings and work," he said laughing.
A senior Kurdish politician close to the Iraqi leader said Saturday that Talabani was going for a checkup that had been scheduled for weeks. The politician spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the president's plans.
Azad Jindyani, spokesman of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, denied the president had health problems.
"Talabani's health is very good, but he felt tired recently ... because of the work and meetings," he said.
Talabani was admitted to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman in neighboring Jordan Feb. 25 after he collapsed in Sulaimaniyah. He was unconscious as he was rushed to a local hospital, but recovered enough to be flown to Jordan. Doctors said he suffered from exhaustion and dehydration caused by lung and sinus infections.
He returned home 17 days later, flying directly to Sulaimaniyah where thousands of Kurds greeted him.
Talabani met earlier Saturday with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the two addressed a news conference along with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Looking pale and slightly unkempt, Talabani was visibly angry when answering a reporter's question on the chances of a coup toppling al-Maliki's government.
"A coup is an illusion that will never materialize," Talabani said. "If it becomes necessary, hundreds of thousands of popular and military forces will be prepared to stand by the government against any coup attempt."
Talabani was the second top Iraqi politician to fly to the United States for medical reasons in four days.
Senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim flew there aboard a U.S. military aircraft Wednesday for further tests to determine if he is suffering from lung cancer, according to members of his staff.
Al-Hakim is the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, the country's largest Shiite party and a partner in al-Maliki's coalition government.