Tuesday, December 20, 2011 – Iraq’s Shiite-led government has issued an arrest warrant for the mainly Shia country’s Sunni vice-president, leading to fears of the government’s collapse and an increase in sectarian tensions.
According to officials in Iraq’s ministry of interior affairs, the warrant for Tariq al-Hashemi was issued under anti-terrorism laws.
The sensational charges against Tariq al-Hashimi, one of the country’s most prominent Sunni leaders, threatened to inflame widening sectarian and political conflicts in Iraq just one day after the last convoy of U.S. troops rolled out of the country into Kuwait.
On Monday, Iraq’s state-run television aired what it said were confessions by alleged terrorists linked to Mr Hashemi. The men said they had been paid by Mr Hashemi’s office to carry out attacks on officials and police officers.
The men said they killed officials working in Health and Foreign Ministries as well as Baghdad police officers, and that they received USD 3,000 from al-Hashemi for each attack.
An aide in al-Hashimi’s office said the three men had indeed worked for the vice president, but he denied all of the allegations. The aide said al-Hashimi was in the northern region of Kurdistan, meeting with Kurdish officials to defuse the worsening political standoff with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
In the meantime, US officials on Tuesday expressed concerns after Iraq issued an arrest warrant for its Sunni vice president on anti-terror charges, just days after the last U.S. troops left the country.
White House spokesman Jay Carney quoted by AFP said, “We’re monitoring reports that an arrest warrant has been issued for vice-president Tareq al-Hashimi in Iraq. We’re urging all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process.”