Iraq fugitive VP leaves Qatar for Saudi: aide
DOHA - Agence France-Presse
In this Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 file photo, Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. AP photoFugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, accused of running a death squad, left the Gulf state of Qatar for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, a close aide told AFP.
"We are leaving Qatar now for Saudi Arabia," said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Saudi Arabia has so far not confirmed his arrival.
Hashemi arrived in Doha on Sunday, reportedly for an official visit, after having taken refuge in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region since December.
Doha's welcoming Hashemi sparked a wave of criticism by Iraq's Shiite leadership, which demanded that Qatar extradite the fugitive leader and denounced the Gulf state's actions as "unacceptable." Qatar has rejected Baghdad's demand to hand over Hashemi saying it violates "diplomatic norms." Hashemi denies the allegations against him and says they are politically motivated.
The row over Hashemi was followed by escalating tensions between several Gulf states and Iraq over how to end the bloodshed in Syria.
On Tuesday, Saudi and Qatari newspapers lashed out at Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over his implicit criticism of Saudi Arabia and Qatar for their calls to arm Syrian rebels.
"Gulf (states) should boycott Maliki and his government," wrote Tariq al-Homayed, the editor of Asharq al-Awsat, calling for the "punishment of all who stand with the tyrant of Damascus, first and foremost Maliki's government." The campaign against Maliki came after he rejected "any arming (of Syrian rebels) and the process to overthrow the Assad regime," arguing that the call to arm the rebels "will leave a greater crisis in the region." The Syrian crisis has raised sectarian tensions, as its minority rulers are Alawites -- an offshoot of Shiite Islam -- who are trying to cling to power by brutally suppressing an uprising led by the country's majority Sunnis.
In Iraq, a Shiite-dominated government came to power after the 2003 US-led invasion ousted Saddam, whose Sunni regime marginalised the country's Shiites for decades.