Mr Aziz has played the role of diplomat at key moments
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is one of Iraq's most familiar figures on the world stage.
As foreign minister during the Gulf War, he was the Baghdad government's spokesman and became an instantly-recognisable figure in the Western media.
The role suited his excellent command of English and his ability to present a seemingly-moderate front.
Unusually for a senior Iraqi official, Mr Aziz is a Christian.
He is not linked to Saddam Hussein's Tikriti clan, whose members constitute much of the president's power base.
Mr Aziz's ties with Saddam Hussein were established in the late 1950s through their involvement in the outlawed Baath Party, which sought to overthrow the British-backed monarchy.
Mr Aziz was born in 1936 near Mosul, northern Iraq. His family circumstances were humble - his father was a waiter.
The young Mr Aziz studied English literature at university in Baghdad before pursuing a career in journalism and becoming editor of the Baath Party's main newspaper.
This stood him in good stead for his first ministerial role, as Iraq's minister of information in the 1970s.
In 1977, he joined the Revolution Command Council - the committee of senior Baath Party officials which effectively ruled Iraq.
Mr Aziz has played the role of diplomat at key moments in Iraq's recent history.
He managed to enlist American support for Baghdad in its eight-year conflict with Iran, and to forge strong economic ties with the Soviet Union.
Shortly before hostilities started, Mr Aziz famously refused to accept a letter from President George Bush
In 1984, Iraq and the US restored diplomatic relations after a meeting at the White House between Mr Aziz and President Reagan.
Mr Aziz came to prominence in the world media after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the war which ensued.
He embarked on a frantic round of visits to foreign capitals to drum up support for Baghdad and held talks with US Secretary of State James Baker.
Shortly before hostilities started, Mr Aziz famously refused to accept a letter from President George Bush to Saddam Hussein at a meeting in Geneva with Mr Baker, signalling the inevitability of military action.
At home, Mr Aziz has survived shifting fortunes, from Saddam's political purges to an assassination attempt by Iranian-backed radicals in 1980.
His image belies the strong nerve and honed political skills that have enabled him to thrive
He is said by those who know him to be calm, articulate and suave.
His trademark cigars - and his glasses and moustache - have led some to compare his appearance to that of Groucho Marx.
But this image belies the strong nerve and honed political skills that have enabled him to thrive and survive in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
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