Iraq’s VP Denies Terrorism Charges, Blames Government

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 2:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Iraq's Sunni Muslim vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, has denied charges that he was behind an alleged plot to kill other government officials.

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

He commented from the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Tuesday, a day after Iraq's central government issued a warrant for his arrest on accusations of terrorism.

Hashemi blamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the charges against him.

“Al-Maliki is behind the whole issue. The country is in the hands of al-Maliki. All the efforts that had been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone. So yes, I blame al-Maliki.”

Hashemi said he is “ready to face trial,” but he wants his case to be heard in the Kurdistan region.

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.