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Biden Urges Iraqi Leaders to Settle Differences

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks at a news conference in Baghdad (File)

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi speaks at a news conference in Baghdad (File)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is urging Iraqi leaders to settle their political differences with the country's Sunni Muslim vice president facing charges that he plotted to kill other government officials.

The White House says Biden telephoned Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the speaker of the Council of Representatives, Osama al-Nujaifi. It says Biden stressed the urgent need for the prime minister the leaders of other political blocs to meet and work through their differences.

Biden again said the United States has a long-term commitment to a strategic partnership with Iraq.

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, denies charges that he was behind an alleged plot to kill other government officials. He says charges by the Shi'ite-led government are politically motivated. Authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest for alleged terrorism.

An Interior Ministry spokesman says three of Hashemi's bodyguards confessed they planted bombs targeting Iraqi government and security officials with Hashemi's backing.

Last week, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for a no-confidence vote in parliament against another leading Sunni politician, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. In an interview with VOA's Kurdish service, Mutlaq called Mr. Maliki a dictator and urged the United States to revisit its policy on Iraq.

Both Hashemi and Mutlaq are leaders of Iraq's mostly Sunni Iraqiya political bloc, part of the country's coalition government. Iraqiya's members walked out of parliament on Saturday, accusing Mr. Maliki of seizing power.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.