Aliyev Delays Return from Treatment in US

BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan’s President Haydar Aliyev–who is recovering from heart surgery in the United States–will set out for home on Tuesday–two days later than planned–a senior Azeri official said on Monday.

"The delay is not connected to concerns about his health–but rather due to technical reasons related to the airplane he will return in," said Ali Hassanov–the head of the political department at the presidential apparatus.

Aliyev’s illness and absence from the former Soviet republic has worried investors about Azerbaijan’s political stability. Diplomats in Baku say the president is also eager to return home.

For three days the presidential press service had said the 76-year-old former Soviet politburo member–who underwent a heart bypass operation on April 29–would leave the United States on May 16.

Azeri state television showed the leader on Sunday looking frailer than usual and a bit pale–walking around a supermarket and the hotel lobby in Cleveland–Ohio where he was resting after his release from hospital on May 10.

Aliyev will fly via London–where his grandchildren and other family members are residing–and then on to Turkey where he will accept the Ataturk peace prize on May 19–Hassanov told Reuters by telephone.

He did not say when Aliyev would return to Baku–saying only that his return would take place after the award ceremony in Ankara.

Aliyev–who has personally overseen the signing of 19 deals worth over $40 billion in potential investment to develop Caspian Sea oil and gas reserves–was treated in Turkey for acute bronchitis at the beginning of this year. Aides denied reports at the time that he had suffered a heart problem.

In 1987 the Azeri leader spent some time in the Kremlin hospital in Moscow for a heart attack.

Last October he was re-elected president in elections that were disputed by the opposition. Aliyev–who ruled Azerbaijan in Soviet times–returned to power in 1993–two years after the country of some eight million people declared independence.

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