In Iraq, there are fresh fears of a rise in sectarian violence after authorities issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
He has been accused of running a hit squad that assassinated government and security officials. The warrant for Iraq’s highest ranking Sunni official was issued a day after US troops left the country prompting the White House to express its concern.
“We’re urging all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
According to Iraq’s Interior Ministry suspects identified as al-Hashemi’s bodyguards linked the vice president to the killings.
State television has also shown pictures of the men who its claimed have admitted their part in planning and carrying out attacks.
But Sunnis say the charges levelled against Hashemi are politically motivated as he is an old rival of the prime minister, as is another former Iraqi leader.
The head of Iraq’s main Sunni-backed political group, Iyad Allawi, said: “In front of all the people, all the world, democracy is being raped in Iraq and completely undermined. We fear this will bring about a rise of sectarianism again and more bloodshed.”
For his part, Hashemi has denied the allegations but he reportedly has said he is ready to stand trial. He also called for the Arab League to take part in the investigation into his activities.
Tensions rise as Iraq seeks Sunni VP arrest