Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on Kurdish authorities to hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who is wanted on allegations of plotting to kill other government officials.
Maliki made the plea at a news conference Wednesday in Baghdad, saying Hashemi must face the justice system.
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.
An Interior Ministry spokesman 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 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 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.
Biden again said the United States has a long-term commitment to a strategic partnership with 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 Maliki of seizing power.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.
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