Aliyev Said Set to Leave US Clinic

CLEVELAND (Reuters)–Azeri President Haydar Aliyev remained a patient at an Ohio clinic on Tuesday but a spokesman for his government in Washington said the leader of the oil-rich nation was "expected to leave any time."

The Cleveland Clinic said Aliyev–who entered the medical facility about two weeks ago for what was described a routine check-up–was still a patient and said it had no information on his plans.

But a press attache at the Azeri embassy in Washington said "he is expected to leave any time now."

"He called the embassy with some working instructions," said the attache–Elin Suleymanov. "He was very lively and humorous. He asked what is this media hype all about. I heard his voice. He’s fine."

Suleymanov also said the embassy had sent a letter of protest to a Russian Internet news service – www.gazeta.ru –which reported a few hours earlier that Aliyev was dead.

Aliyev’s health is of interest to outsiders as he has overseen the signing of deals worth $50 billion in potential investment to develop the energy resources of his Caspian state.

A statement issued by the head of the presidential administration in Baku earlier on Tuesday said Aliyev would head home on Wednesday.

Azeri Health Minister Ali Insanov also took steps to quash speculation about Aliyev’s health–saying the president would return to the capital by the end of this week.

"His health is fine," he said on the ANS television channel.

In Moscow–the secretary of Russia’s Security Council–Sergei Ivanov–said President Vladimir Putin had been in regular telephone contact with Aliyev over the past week.

"I officially declare that reports by some Russian media about the health of the Azerbaijani president do not correspond to reality," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Ivanov as saying.

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