CHICAGO–Haydar Aliyev–former president of Azerbaijan–died on Friday at age 80 in the Cleveland Clinic–where he had been undergoing treatment–the Ohio medical facility announced.
He had been at the clinic since August 6 for treatment of congestive heart failure and kidney problems. On October 2–he said he would not seek re-election–and his son–Ilham Aliyev–won election Oct. 15 to succeed him as president of the oil and gas-rich former Soviet Republic.
A former KGB and Communist Party boss–the senior Aliyev had dominated politics in his country since the late 1960s–and had been expected to win a new term before his illness worsened.
In withdrawing from the election–he said he was "convinced I will recover soon and come back to my home country," and urged his fellow citizens to support his son–then the country’s prime minister and his direct constitutional successor.
The election was marred by clashes between opposition supporters and police and at the time the U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disappointed" in the way it was carried out–calling for a probe into allegations of intimidation and ballot stuffing. Aliyev’s main opponent had argued that the outcome was fixed.
Rumsfeld said ties between Washington and Azerbaijan would continue to grow despite the election controversy.
Political stability in Azerbaijan–which underwent a number of coups in the early 1990s–is important to global oil giants such as Britain’s BP–which have invested heavily in the country. In addition–the United States sees Azerbaijan as a potential alternative source of oil.