Maliki tells Kurds to hand over wanted Iraqi VP

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged Kurdish authorities in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan on Wednesday to hand over Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to face terror charges.

Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi, a Sunni leader from the Iraqiya bloc, accusing the vice president of being behind terror attacks, claims al-Hashemi vehemently denies.

Al-Hashemi fled to Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, as news of his arrest surfaced.

"We ask our brothers in the Kurdistan region to take responsibility and hand the wanted person over to the judiciary. His running to another state would create problems," al-Maliki told a press conference.

"We will be sure to provide a fair trial for Tariq al-Hashemi," he said.

Al-Hashemi insists the claims were fabricated by al-Maliki, as the Iraqiya bloc suspended their participation in the Iraqi cabinet in solidarity with the vice president.

An Al-Akhbar report revealed that, according to Iraqi sources, the prime minister had footage proving that Hashemi was behind last month's bombing of the parliament building and the assassination attempt on al-Maliki's life.

The sources said al-Maliki pointed out that there are three detainees who confessed to these accusations, including al-Hashimi’s son in law.

On Monday, state television did in fact air footage showing what the interior ministry said were al-Hashemi’s bodyguards confessing to planning and carrying out terror attacks, and receiving funding and support from al-Hashemi.

At least 13 of al-Hashemi’s bodyguards have been detained in recent weeks, though it is unclear how many were still being held.

The accusations threaten to unravel Iraq's fragile unity government only days after the US withdrew from the country after nine years of occupation.

The struggle threatens to exacerbate sectarian tensions between the Shia parliamentary majority headed by al-Maliki, and the mainly Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc.

The Iraqiya list is the single largest parliamentary bloc, but was outmaneuvered by Maliki, who finished second, but was able to form a majority bloc with smaller Shia parties to claim the head of government.

The Al-Akhbar report points to a regional power struggle between Iran and the oil-rich Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia as a major catalyst behind the recent internal Iraqi divisions.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters)


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