FILE – In this Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, file photo, Iraq’s vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq’s Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant Monday Dec. 19, 2011, for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country’s highest ranking Sunni official, on alleged terrorism charges. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s Shiite prime minister told Kurdish authorities Wednesday to hand over the Sunni vice president, who fled to the semiautonomous region to escape an arrest warrant on charges he ran hit squads targeting government officials.
The charges, leveled a day after the last American troops left Iraq, have opened up a new round of the Shiite-Sunni sectarian tensions that pushed the country to the brink of civil war just a few years ago.
Tariq Al-Hashemi, the country’s highest-ranking Sunni political figure, said Monday the allegations by his longtime rival, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are fabricated and politically motivated. He accused al-Maliki of concentrating power in his hands and torpedoing national reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites.
“I do not allow myself and others to bargain over Iraqi blood,” al-Maliki said in his first public comments on the warrant. He said Iraq is a unified county, and the Kurdish authorities should hand over al-Hashemi to the Iraqi justice system. “If they will not hand him over or let him flee or escape, this will lead to problems,” the Login to read more