Tariq al-Hashemi, the top Sunni official and the vice president of Iraq, has claimed he was “paying the price” of standing up against Iranian influence in Iraq and trying to convince Sunni insurgents to lay down arms and engage in politics, more than a week after an order for his arrest was issued by Baghdad in what he called an effort to remove him from the Iraqi political scene.
“I have paid a heavy price for continuously challenging Iranian influence in Iraq and trying to lead Sunni insurgents -- who took up arms in 2003 in rebellion -- to peaceful methods and convince them to engage in politics instead,” Hashemi said to local news outlet al Sumaria News, which was quoted by the Anatolian news agency on Tuesday.
Hashemi was charged with running a gang of paid hitmen with the aim of murdering rival politicians and security officials, allegations he denied from President Jalal Talabani's guesthouse in Sulaimaniya, where he fled to dodge the Baghdad warrant. Hashemi said the charges were baseless and politically motivated by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is “trying to establish his one-man rule in the country by eliminating influential politicians of Sunni background,” starting with Hashemi.
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