The Shi'ite-led government in Iraq has issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, a move that is seen as evidence of a deepening political crisis in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal from that country.
A spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry said Hashemi is accused of terrorism. The accusation is based on what were described as confessions by three of his bodyguards who said they planted bombs targeting Iraqi government and security officials.
A Hashemi aide, while acknowledging the three men work for the vice president, denied the terrorism allegations.
Hashemi is reported to be in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region for talks with Kurdish officials. He could not be reached for comment.
The Obama administration has expressed concern over the development. A White House spokesman said the United States urges "all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue in a manner consistent with the rule of law."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier called for a no-confidence vote in parliament against another leading Sunni politician, Deputy Prime Minister Salem 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. But its members walked out of parliament on Saturday, accusing Mr. Maliki of seizing power.
On Sunday, the last convoy of U.S. troops departed Iraq for neighboring Kuwait, leaving behind a few hundred soldiers to guard the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. President Barack Obama said the end of the U.S. occupation means the future of Iraq is "in the hands of its own people."
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.
|Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.|