Iraq court OKs al-Hashemi arrest warrant

Dec. 25, 2011 at 9:53 PM

BAGHDAD, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- Iraq's Higher Judicial Council has endorsed an arrest warrant accusing the country's vice president of enlisting his body guards to run a hit squad.

The warrant was issued last week against leading Sunni politician Tariq al-Hashemi, by the Interior Ministry, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the country's top Shiite politician, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Al-Hashemi has denied the charges, saying Maliki has fabricated them. He has taken refuge in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Maliki has demanded the Kurds hand al-Hashemi over.

The Higher Judicial Council said a five-judge panel had conducted a review of the investigation and ruled al-Hashemi's arrest warrant was justified, Iraq's state-run television station Iraqia reported.

In Washington, the White House said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke by phone Sunday with Maliki and Saturday with Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani. A White House statement said Biden "offered condolences on the recent violence in Baghdad, exchanged views with both leaders on the current political climate in Iraq and reiterated our support for ongoing efforts to convene a dialogue among Iraqi political leaders."

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