Relatives hold Christian funeral for Saddam ally Aziz

Relatives and supporters of the late Iraqi foreign minister and Saddam Hussein’s ally Tariq Aziz attend a mass in a church ahead of his burial.

AMMAN, JORDAN (JUNE 13, 2015) (REUTERS) – Around thousand Jordanians and Iraqis attended a mass on Saturday (June 13) that was held in St. Mary of Nazareth church in Amman for late Saddam Hussein ally and foreign minister Tariq Aziz.

Aziz body was brought to Jordan in the early hours of Saturday.

He died in hospital on June 5 after a heart attack in Iraq’s southern Dhi Qar governorate.

Mourners waved Iraqi flag and held photos of Aziz and Saddam Hussein.

They also attended his mass, prayed for him and members of his family were seen grieving.

“What I want to say is that God bless his soul and thanks for Jordan, His Majesty and other people who allowed us to see him. Thank you so much and God bless you all Jordanians and Iraqis thank you much,” said Aziz’s son Ziad.

A former Saddam’s Baath party member Mohammad al- Subahi also paid tribute to Aziz.

“Tariq Aziz was a true human with all its meaning and had good morale and was a good diplomat. And he had a belief, and despite the temptations that he received from all parties he did not change his stance at court when he said that he was responsible and he was the colleague of Saddam and he was responsible if there were mistakes,” he said.

Aziz will be laid to rest in Madaba, 30 kilometres from the capital, later on Saturday.

The return of Aziz’s body, originally due back from Baghdad on Thursday by plane, was delayed, his son said.

Aziz, a fluent English speaker, played a prominent diplomatic role in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, when a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, as well as in the long-running disputes over United Nations weapons inspections in subsequent years.

A Chaldean Christian, he was born in the village of Tal Keif, near Mosul in northern Iraq. His association with Saddam dated back to the 1950s, when the two men were involved in the then-outlawed Baath party, which sought to oust the British-backed monarchy.

Aziz was appointed minister of information in the 1970s. In 1977, he joined the Revolutionary Command Council, the committee of senior Baath party officials ruling Iraq, and in 1979, he became deputy prime minister.

Aziz was number 43 on the U.S. list of most wanted Iraqi officials during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq when he gave himself up, just two weeks after Saddam was toppled.