Iraqi VP Denies Terrorism Charges

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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Iraq's Sunni Muslim vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, has denied charges that he was behind a plot to kill government officials.

He says charges brought against him by Iraq's Shi'ite-led government are politically motivated.

Hashemi says he is “ready to face trial,” but only if the case is transferred to Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.

He spoke with reporters in Kurdistan Tuesday, a day after the central government issued a warrant for his arrest on accusations of terrorism.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the accusations are based on what are described as confessions by three of Hashemi's bodyguards, who said they planted bombs targeting Iraqi government and security officials.

A Hashemi aide acknowledged the three men work for the vice president but denied the terrorism charges.

Last week, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for a no-confidence vote in parliament against another leading Sunni politician, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. In an interview with VOA's Kurdish service, Mutlaq called Mr. Maliki a dictator and urged the United States to revisit its policy on Iraq.

Both Hashemi and Mutlaq are leaders of Iraq's mostly Sunni Iraqiya political bloc, part of the country's coalition government. Iraqiya's members walked out of parliament on Saturday, accusing Mr. Maliki of seizing power.

The Obama administration has expressed concern over the developments. A White House spokesman said the United States urges “all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue in a manner consistent with the rule of law.”

On Sunday, the last convoy of U.S. troops departed Iraq for neighboring Kuwait, leaving behind a few hundred soldiers to guard the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. President Barack Obama said the end of the U.S. occupation means the future of Iraq is “in the hands of its own people.”