The Associated Press

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim

BAGHDAD (AP) - Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the scion of a revered clerical family who channeled rising Shiite Muslim power after the fall of Saddam Hussein to become one of Iraq's most influential politicians, died Wednesday. He was 59.

His death was announced by his son and political heir Ammar, who said that al-Hakim died of lung cancer in Iran.

Calm and soft-spoken, al-Hakim was a kingmaker in Iraq's politics, working behind the scenes as the head of the country's biggest Shiite political party.

But for many in Iraq's Shiite majority, he was more than that - a symbol of their community's victory and seizure of power after decades of oppression under Saddam's Sunni-led regime. Al-Hakim's family led a Shiite rebel group against Saddam's rule from their exile in Iran, where he livedfor 20 years, building close ties with Iranian leaders.

After Saddam's 2003 fall, al-Hakim hewed close to the Americans even while maintaining his alliance with Tehran, judging that the U.S. military was key to the Shiite rise.

Among Iraq's minority Sunnis, he was deeply distrusted, seen as a tool of Shiite Iran.

The alliance of Shiite parties that al-Hakim helped forge and that has dominated the government since the first post-Saddam elections in 2005 has broken apart ahead of January parliamentary elections, pitting a coalition led by al-Hakim's party against another led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.