Aref was president until 1968, when he was removed by the Baath party in a bloodless coup, led at the time by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr who became Iraq’s next president.
But Saddam believed to have been the power behind the scenes and formally took over the government in 1979.
Reports on the coup said that in the early hours of July 17, 1968, as Aref slept, Hardan al-Tikriti, the defence secretary, entered the palace and phoned him to tell him he was no longer president.
Aref was then put on a aeroplane to London, from where he made his way to Istanbul where he lived in exile for 11 years. In the 1980s Saddam allowed him to return to Baghdad.
“I hope there will be national unity in Iraq by forgetting the past and looking for the future.”
In 2004, the post-Saddam interim government said it would pay Aref a monthly pension and allocated some funds to pay for medical treatment in Jordan. It was never made public what kind of health problems Aref suffered.
Aref is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters.