Iraq pm urges Kurds to hand over wanted vp

Baghdad (ANTARA News/AFP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday called on authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region to hand over Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted on allegations of running a death squad.

"We call for the government of the Kurdistan region to take its responsibility and hand over Hashemi to the justice system," Maliki told a news conference in Baghdad. "We do not accept any interference in Iraqi justice."

Maliki also rejected Hashemi`s calls for Arab League representatives to observe the investigation and any questioning, telling reporters: "This is a criminal case, and there is no need for the Arab League and the world to have a role in this."

His remarks came as Iraq`s government marked its first anniversary in turmoil, as Hashemi rejected charges he ran a hit squad, while the United States has urged calm in a row that has heightened sectarian tensions.

Officials issued the warrant for Hashemi`s arrest on Monday, after earlier banning him from travelling overseas.

At least 13 of the vice president`s bodyguards have been detained in recent weeks, security officials have said, although it was unclear how many remain in custody.

Hashemi`s office said only three were arrested, and has complained of "intentional harassment" in the form of blockade of his home by security forces for several weeks, as well as other incidents. (*)