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Iraq's Sunni VP says he is ready to face justice

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 03:19

Dec. 20 - Iraq's vice president Tareq al-Hashemi tells reporters he's ready to stand before a judge after an arrest warrant is issued in his name. Deborah Lutterbeck reports

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Within days of the final U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, government authorities issue an arrest warrant for Sunni Muslim Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi. He is suspected of ties to assassinations and bombings, but defended himself at a news conference Tuesday. (SOUNDBITE) (ARABIC) TAREQ AL-HASHEMI, IRAQ'S VICE-PRESIDENT, SAYING: "I am ready to stand before a judge, me and my bodyguards, but on condition to provide minimum requirement of justice. Therefore, I have notes and objections against the preliminary investigation which was conducted by Baghdad brigade or by the federal police or by the military intelligence. I am worried about the confessions, so I call for investigation that should be conducted by judges in Kurdistan region, and there should be sides which monitor the process of probe - then I will be ready to stand before justice." The political struggle between Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Sunni rivals in the country's delicate power-sharing deal has intensified during the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops, nearly nine years after the U.S.-led invasion. Al-Hashemi expressed surprise over a speech made by U.S. President Barack Obama when he called Iraq a democratic country with an independent judiciary. (SOUNDBITE) (ARABIC) TAREQ AL-HASHEMI, IRAQ'S VICE PRESIDENT, SAYING: "I am surprised of the statement by U.S. President Obama when he said that we left a democratic Iraq where the judiciary is honest and transparent and there is no corruption. What did the U.S. President mean by his speech? Is it the real situation in Iraq? I am very sad, whether the U.S. President was misled by these reports, or he was jumped on facts." Earlier in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry showed footage aired on Iraqi state TV of three of Hashemi's former body guards who claimed they had been paid to carryout assassinations. In Jordan, former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said it is time for Maliki to step aside. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FORMER IRAQI PRIME MINISTER, IYAD ALLAWI, SAYING: "We fear return of dictatorship and authoritarianism. Therefore I called, and I call, on the brothers in the national alliance to replace Mr. Maliki with another candidate from the National Alliance, as he has no ability to run the country in a democratic, peaceful, and acceptable way." Analysts say the arrest warrant for al-Hashemi risks unraveling Iraq's fragile power-sharing deal among Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs who have struggled to overcome tensions just a few years after sectarian slaughter drove the country to the edge of a civil war. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters

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Iraq's Sunni VP says he is ready to face justice

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 03:19