Dec. 24 - Iraq's Sunni vice president says the charges against him could reignite a sectarian war. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi told Reuters Saturday that he had been the target of a personal and political vendetta by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Earlier this week, Maliki sought Hashemi's arrest and moved to fire the Sunni deputy, triggering Iraq's worst crisis in a year. The timing comes as the U.S. has withdrawn forces from Iraq. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT TAREQ AL-HASHEMI, SAYING: "The timing is regrettable and the proof is that the timing is deliberate. Maliki said that he had a three-year-old file. Why is he bringing it up? Why has he presented it to the legal system? This issue has a political dimension and, by any means, it is to get rid of Hashemi politically." Iraq's interior ministry has shown broadcast taped confessions it said were from Hashemi's security detail, talking about payments to carry out assassinations and bombings. He denies all charges. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT TAREQ AL-HASHEMI, SAYING: "The political dimension of this issue is to get rid of all those who oppose Maliki, it is clear. So Iraq can stay in the grip of one-man rule and one-party rule. With great regret, Mr Maliki has not accepted other opinions. Therefore, it is hard for the man to be part of the political consensus, or to be a main part in building a state of law, of institutions or to consolidate democracy." On Saturday hundreds of protesters in Hilla took to the streets calling for Hashemi to be called before the courts. Earlier in the week at least 72 people were killed in multiple bombings across Baghdad in mainly Shi'ite neighborhoods, in what some say may have been the first sign of a possible violent backlash against Maliki's moves. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters