Iraqi media released new pictures Thursday of President Jalal Talabani, who has been in Germany since December 2012 after suffering a stroke, with the Kurdish leader appearing in good health.
The images, published by media loyal to Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, come with campaigning having officially begun ahead of April 30 parliamentary elections and the PUK struggling to fend off a challenge from a breakaway faction.
The three photos, taken in Berlin during the Kurdish New Year festival of Nowruz on March 21, show the Iraqi president sitting outdoors and sipping from a cup, and speaking to people dressed in traditional Kurdish garb.
"We have been informed by his private doctor that Talabani's health is improving, and he has a desire to return to the country," said Adnan Mufti, a member of the PUK's political office.
"But we are waiting for permission and instructions from his doctors."
They are the third set of pictures released to the public since Talabani left more than a year ago for Germany to receive treatment after suffering a stroke.
His PUK party, which has long formed a duopoly of power in the northern autonomous Kurdish region with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of regional president Massud Barzani, has struggled in his absence.
It fell to third place in Kurdish regional parliamentary elections last year behind the KDP and the Goran faction, composed largely of PUK defectors.
The party's struggles have also included difficulties in picking a new leader since Talabani left the country.