Powerful Iraqi leader's cancer may be in remission

BAGHDAD — Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the leader of Iraq's most influential Shiite Muslim political party, appears to be free of the lung cancer for which he's been undergoing treatment in Iran and will undergo a checkup in Houston on Thursday to verify that diagnosis, a Hakim aide told McClatchy.

Hakim arrived in Washington on Tuesday on his way to Houston and met with President Bush. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the men discussed a range of Iraq-related issues in the first meeting between the two since last Dec. 4.

Hakim's illness, which was diagnosed early this year, has been a concern in Iraq. His party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, is the most important political group in Iraq, and U.S. officials have often described Hakim as an important counter to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, whose father was a bitter Hakim rival.

Hakim at first sought treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in May, but he underwent the bulk of his treatment in Iran, where doctors administered chemotherapy and radiation. Haitham al Husseini, a Hakim aide, said the Iranian doctors recently told Hakim that the cancer was gone. The trip to Houston is to ensure that the cancer is in remission, Husseini said.

During Hakim's illness, his son, Ammar al Hakim, acted as a conduit between his father and U.S. officials.