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SADDAM HUSSEIN Saddam Hussein is the authoritarian president of Iraq since 1979 who has led his country into two devastating wars Born to a poor farming family in Tikrit a town north of Baghdad Hussein was raised by his widowed mother and other relatives He moved to Baghdad in 1955 and became involved in politics joining the opposition Baath Party an Arab nationalist movement Hussein rose quickly within the party and in 1959 helped organize an assassination attempt on Abd al-Karim Kassem the military president of Iraq Both Kassem and Hussein were injured in the gun battle and Hussein fled to Cairo Hussein studied law in Cairo while continuing party-affiliated activities He returned to Baghdad in 1963 married and rose to the post of assistant secretary general of the Baath Party The party remained in opposition to the government until 1968 when it seized power in a coup Years of underground work gave Hussein a small core of like-minded friends many related to him by blood or marriage and most from Tikrit After the coup this clique established itself as a Revolutionary Command Council with absolute authority in the country Hussein became vice chairman of the council in 1969 He worked closely with General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr the councils chairman and president of Iraq Hussein took a leading role in addressing the countrys major domestic problems He negotiated an agreement in 1970 with separatist Kurdish leaders giving them autonomy The agreement later broke down leading to brutal fighting between the regime and Kurdish groups He also played a part in the nationalization of the oil industry Iraqs major source of wealth In 1973 oil prices skyrocketed allowing the government to pursue an ambitious economic development program that included new schools universities hospitals and factories In foreign affairs Hussein at first helped Iraq play a leading role in the Middle East In 1975 he negotiated a settlement with Iran that
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