Iraq VP warns of sectarian conflict

Tariq al-Hashemi said al-Maliki wants to get rid of all political rivals and run Iraq like a "one-man-show."

Qalachwalan (Iraq): The Sunni vice president wanted for allegedly running a hit squad in Iraq has accused Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of waging a campaign against Sunnis and pushing the country toward sectarian war.

In an interview yesterday Tariq al-Hashemi said al-Maliki wants to get rid of all political
rivals and run Iraq like a "one-man-show."

The comments by Iraq`s highest level Sunni political figure reflect the mounting sectarian tensions surrounding the confrontation between him and the prime minister that have hiked fears Iraq could be thrown into new violence following the exit of American troops.

The political crisis taps into the resentments that have remained raw in the country despite years of effort to overcome them, with minority Sunnis fearing the Sunni majority
is squeezing them out of any political say, and Shiites suspecting Sunnis of links to insurgency and terrorism.

"He`s pushing the things to a catastrophe. And I`m not sure what`s going to happen after that," al-Hashemi, who denies the accusations, said of the prime minister.

He spoke at a guesthouse of Iraqi President
Jalal Talabani in the mountains overlooking the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, 260 kilometres northeast of Baghdad.

Al-Hashemi arrived here on Sunday with a small suitcase and two suits to discuss the growing conflict with al-Maliki`s government.

But what was supposed to be a two-day trip has stretched nearly a week after the Iraqi government Monday issued an arrest against him on what he says are trumped-up charges.

He has refused to go back to Baghdad where he says he cannot get a fair trial. The central government`s security forces do no operate in the northern autonomous Kurdish zone, so he`s safe from arrest here.

The Iraqi government maintains al-Hashemi orchestrated a campaign of assassinations carried out by his bodyguards.

Earlier this week they aired televised confessions of the bodyguards detailing how al-Hashemi gave them money for the hits.

Bureau Report

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