Qatar refuses to turn over fugitive Iraqi VP


Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi speaking in London in 2007.


Bruno Vincent

Qatar today refused to turn Iraq's vice president over to Baghdad, where the once-powerful Sunni politicial faces terror charges pressed by the Shiite-dominated government, reported the Associated Press

Qatar’s minister of state for international cooperation, Khaled al-Attiyah, told reporters today that the Sunni Gulf nation would not be able to accomodate Iraq's extradition request, which was sent on Monday, because there is "no court verdict" against Tariq al-Hashemi. 

“He came to Qatar from Iraq as the vice president of Iraq and he still holds the title and has [diplomatic] immunity," Al-Attiyah told reporters.

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Al-Hashemi arrived in Qatar on Sunday, but he has been on the run since December, when Iraqi authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of terrorizing Shiite pilgrims and local authorities, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The move promptly led to religiously-charged political uproar in Baghdad, according to AP

The Sunni leader, who has denounced the charges as politically motivated, took refuge in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region until his appearance in Sunni Qatar, a nation that has previously raised concerns over the treatmet of Sunnis in Iraq, said The Wall Street Journal.

Strains between Baghdad and Dubai were apparent in the Qatari Emir's non-appearance at the recent Arab League summit, an event seen as its coming-of-age on the Arab world stage, according to The Wall Street Journal

Dubai views Baghdad's Shiite-fuelled friendliness toward Iran with mistrust, while Iraq has been at odds with the Gulf nation over its Syria policy, reported The Wall Street Journal

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have pushed for directly arming Syrian rebels in a bid to overthrow the country's embattled President Bashar al-Assad. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday said "the stance of these two states is very strange," in an apparent reference to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, arguing that such a move "will leave a greater crisis in the region," calling for a united stand "against the interference of some countries in Syria's internal affairs," warning that those who do so will interfere in "any country," said AFP

Al-Maliki's comments were greeted with a storm of criticism today in Saudi press, reported Lebanon's Daily Star