(AGI) Rome, Oct 26 - Tareq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's former deputyand the international voice of the Iraqi regime, died at theage of 79 on Friday after a lengthy imprisonment. Aziz, whoserved as a bridge between the regime and the West, was theprincipal Christian in Hussein's entourage. He was born nearMosul in 1936 and was raised a Chaldean Catholic. Aftercompleting a degree in English Language in Literature, heworked first as a journalist before his appointment as foreignminister and subsequently as deputy Prime Minister. His realname was Mikhail Yuhanna. Consistently downplaying hisreligion, Aziz presented himself as an Iraqi Arab and a memberof the Ba'ath party. He was dubbed the "Gromyko of Baghdad" forhis stoicism, keen sense of diplomacy, and unflinching loyaltyto the regime. He became a member of the Revolutionary CommandCouncil in 1977, and rose among the political ranks asHussein's aide, eventually becoming one of the regime's topfigures. He survived an assassination attempt by IranianIslamic militants in 1980. Aziz was given the difficult task ofbeing the 'human face' of the regime and its spokesman duringIraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He affirmed that the attackwas justified due to Kuwait's increased oil exports damagingIraq's economy. Though he accused other Arab states of beingsubservient to the U.S., he was also the regime's negotiatorwith the UN and strove to avoid a war. Though his positionchanged shortly before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, steppingout of the limelight to become Hussein's close aide andadvisor, he took part in the last-ditch attempt to prevent thewar, being received by Pope John Paul II on February 14 of2003, just as Cardinal Roger Etchegaray travelled to Baghdad tomeet Saddam Hussein. Aziz then visited the Franciscan conventin Assisi and prayed before the tomb of St. Francis. He escapedthe fall of Baghdad on April 18, but he negotiated hissurrender to U.S. forces a week later. He was sentenced todeath in 2010 for his involvement in the persecution of Shiagroups in the 1980s, but the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani,refused to sign his execution. Aziz's death sentence was thensuspended, also thanks to pressure from the Vatican and EUnations, including Italy. In 2011, he demanded to either beimmediately executed or freed, as long as his "torment" inprison ended. "My father can no longer move or speak, and hasgreat difficulty feeding himself," his son Ziad explained atthe time. (AGI). .