Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi says allegations that he plotted to kill other government officials are politically-motivated by a prime minister bent on consolidating power after U.S. troops withdrew this month.
In an interview with VOA Wednesday, Hashemi says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki controls the security and intelligence forces and does not allow other elected officials to interfere. The vice president fled to the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq to escape a warrant for his arrest issued this week.
Hashemi, a Sunni, has denied the charges leveled by Iraq's Shi'ite-led government. He says the United States failed to leave behind a democratic model in Iraq, leaving the nation vulnerable to interference from its Iranian neighbors.
Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Maliki, at a Baghdad news conference, called on Kurdish authorities to hand over the vice president.
A spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry says three of Hashemi's bodyguards confessed they planted bombs targeting Iraqi government and security officials with Hashemi's backing.
The alleged plot and a call last week by Mr. Maliki for a no-confidence vote in parliament against another leading Sunni politician, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, have heightened political tension in Iraq.
On Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged Iraqi leaders to settle their political differences.
The White House said Biden telephoned Mr. Maliki and the speaker of the Council of Representatives, Osama al-Nujaifi. It said Biden stressed the urgent need for the prime minister and the leaders of other political blocs to meet and work through their differences.
Both Hashemi and Mutlaq are leaders of Iraq's mostly Sunni Iraqiya political bloc, part of the coalition government. Iraqiya's members walked out of parliament on Saturday, accusing Mr. Maliki of seizing power.