Iraqi PM escalates crisis with ultimatum to Kurds

Maliki's demands for handover of rival heighten fears of sectarian strife

The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has demanded the Kurds hand over his Sunni Vice-President,Tariq al-Hashemi, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued on charges of terrorism.

Mr Maliki said ominously that Mr Hashemi, who has taken refuge in Kurdistan, will receive as fair a trial as that of Saddam Hussein, who was executed in 2006.

Mr Maliki is deliberately escalating the political crisis, which is seen by the Sunni minority as a bid by the Shia-dominated government to marginalise them. The Kurds, who have total political and military control of most of northern Iraq, are likely to refuse to hand over Mr Hashemi and are seeking to act as mediators between him and the Prime Minister.

Mr Hashemi said the accusations against him – that he ran death squads made up of his bodyguards against his opponents – are fabrications. The charges are based on confessions from his guards who said that he personally paid them for attacks, but these allegations may well have been extracted by torture or the threat of it.

Mr Maliki had earlier claimed that an attempt to assassinate him with a remotely detonated bomb three weeks ago outside the parliament building inside the closely guarded Green Zone had been arranged by Mr Hashemi's guards. The details revealed about the alleged plot suggest that, if it was an assassination bid, it was a poorly organised one unlikely to succeed.

In his first comments on the arrest warrant, Mr Maliki said that Iraq is a unitary state and that the Kurds must hand over Mr Hashemi. "I do not allow myself and others to bargain over Iraqi blood," he said. "If they will not hand him over or let him flee or escape, this will lead to problems."

Mr Maliki leads what is nominally a power-sharing government set up exactly a year ago under US pressure in which Shia, Kurds and Sunni all have positions. But the government has always remained divided. Mr Maliki has concentrated power on his own office and is acting as the Minister of Defence and Interior with total control over all security appointments. Top officials in both security ministries are reportedly over 90 per cent Shia.

The Kurds complain that he has appointed all army divisional commanders as "acting commanders" and has ignored the Kurds' preferences. There has also been a recent purge of Sunni officers accused of being Baathists.

Mr Maliki may be overplaying his hand by alienating Sunni and Kurdish leaders at the same time, since he probably does not have the political or military strength to rule Iraq by force alone. His accusations against Mr Hashemi come just after the Prime Minister had called for a vote of no confidence in parliament against the Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, who had accused him of establishing a dictatorship.

Mr Hashemi's Iraqiya bloc, currently boycotting parliament, yesterday rejected a call by Mr Maliki for talks to resolve the crisis, and in turn said it was considering a no-confidence vote against the the Prime Minister.

Mr Maliki's actions, within hours of the departure of the last US troops, will come as a blow to Barack Obama, who has sought to give the impression that US soldiers leave behind a stable Iraq.

The overthrow of Saddam ended Sunni hegemony and subsequent Sunni marginalisation was increased by disbanding the army and the Baath party.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album