BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who suffered a stroke a year ago, is on his way to a full recovery in Germany, his office said on Wednesday, publishing photos of him with his wife.
Talabani's doctor has repeatedly said the 80-year-old is responding to treatment in Germany, but rumors about his condition have been rife. Many Iraqis believe he is too frail to return to political life.
In the official photographs, dated December 8, Talabani is shown in casual clothes, sitting at a table talking to his wife. In one image he gestures with his left hand when in conversation.
Talabani has "passed through the important stages of the treatment", a statement on the presidency's website said, citing his doctor, who said the Kurdish statesman was "on the way to a full recovery."
As president, Talabani has used his extensive connections to help mediate disputes between Iraq's Sunni Muslim, Shi'ite and ethnic Kurdish factions, which have worsened since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in December 2011.
Talabani is also leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which co-governs the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. His absence has raised questions about the party's future and shaken political life in the self-ruling territory.
A veteran of the Kurdish guerrilla movement, Talabani survived wars, exile and infighting in northern Iraq to become the country's first Kurdish president a few years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
In May, his office released the first photographs of him since the stroke, showing him seated outdoors at a table with people dressed in white medical coats.
He had suffered ill-health during most of 2012, going abroad for medical treatment abroad several times before the stroke.
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Alistair Lyon)