Wanted Iraqi Sunni VP Hashemi 'will return
April 6, 2012
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is wanted by
authorities on terrorism charges. Photo: AFP/Getty
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia,— Fugitive Iraqi
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi will return to Iraq,
a close aide said on Thursday, denying a claim by a
Saudi official that he might remain in the kingdom
until his political foe, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki,
"He will return very soon to Kurdistan," said a
member of his delegation in reference to the
autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region where Hashemi has been
sheltering since he was accused late last year of
running a death squad.
The spokesman added that for Hashemi to stay abroad
is "the wish of his enemies," in a clear reference
Only hours earlier, Hashemi said in an interview
with Al-Jazeera television that, although Maliki
wants him "out of Iraq ... I will return."
He also accused Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, of waging a
systematic campaign against Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
For his part, Hashemi spokesman Medhat Abu Abdallah
told AFP: "We deny this information categorically.
The vice president will leave Saudi on Saturday to
continue his regional tour."
The Saudi official had said Hashemi "will remain in
Saudi Arabia for the time being," adding that he
might stay until Maliki is pushed out of office "by
He also lashed out at Maliki, describing him as "an
extension of Iran in the region."
Hashemi arrived in the Sunni heavyweight kingdom on
Wednesday from next-door Qatar, after a
controversial four-day visit that sparked criticism
from Iraq's Shiite-led government and demands that
Doha hand him over.
Qatar refused those demands, saying they violated
In Riyadh, Hashemi met the kingdom's foreign
minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal.
Hashemi fled to Iraq's northern Kurdistan region in
December to avoid formal charges and arrest.
In his Al-Jazeera interview, he said the accusations
against him "have a sectarian dimension" that are
part of what he said was a systematic campaign
against Sunni Arabs.
He said he is the "fifth Sunni figure to be
targeted" by the government, and that "more than 90
percent of the detainees in Iraq are Sunnis."
Hashemi also alleged that the government is
providing "military assistance" to Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad's regime, arguing that Maliki's
support for the Syria's leadership,www.ekurd.net
which he has previously accused of funding
terrorism, is motivated by sectarian considerations.
"There is information about Iraqi militias fighting
alongside the Syrian regime," Hashemi told Al-Jazeera.
There are also "unconfirmed reports that Iraq's
airspace is being used to help (Assad's) regime," he
added, hinting at Iranian involvement.
Maliki has rejected attempts by Sunni-led Gulf Arab
states to arm rebels fighting to overthrow Assad,
arguing that such a move would trigger an even
bigger crisis in the region.
The Syrian issue has split the Arab world. Hardline
states, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have
advocated arming Syrian rebels and called for
Assad's departure. Others, including Iraq, want to
see a political solution.
Syria's minority rulers are Alawites -- an offshoot
of Shiite Islam -- who are trying to cling to power
by brutally suppressing anti-regime protests led by
the country's majority Sunnis.
In Iraq, the Shiite-dominated government has ruled
over the minority Sunnis since the 2003 US-led
invasion ousted Saddam Hussein.
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