Iraqi VP visits Qatar despite travel ban
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Sun April 1, 2012
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, pictured in December, met Qatari leaders.
- The Iraqi vice president is scheduled to meet with top Qatari leaders
- Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is wanted on terrorism charges in Iraq; he denies the charges
- Iraq's prime minister says no Arab countries should host the wanted vice president
- Al-Hashimi's office says he will visit other countries, then return to Kurdistan
Baghdad (CNN) -- Iraq's vice president arrived in Qatar Sunday to meet with leaders of the Gulf nation, despite an Iraqi government order banning him from international travel.
The visit of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who has been living in Kurdistan since Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for him on terrorism charges, drew sharp criticism from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Arab countries should not host the wanted vice president, al-Maliki said, according to al-Iraqiya state television.
Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders have squared off over an arrest warrant issued last year for the Sunni vice president, who has denied the charged and called them "politically motivated."
The Iraqi Interior Ministry has said al-Hashimi is banned from leaving the country. And Al-Maliki has demanded that Kurdish lawmakers hand over al-Hashimi, who refuses to return to Baghdad from northern Iraq.
In an interview with CNN in January, al-Hashimi accused al-Maliki -- a Shiite -- of pushing the country toward a deep sectarian divide.
On his trip to Qatar, al-Hashimi was scheduled to meet with Qatar's prime minister and emir "based on an invitation he had received earlier," a statement from his office said.
"The visit is expected to last a few days, and after that, the vice president will travel to other countries that will be announced later," the statement said. "Following the visits, the vice president will return to his place of residence in Iraqi Kurdistan Region."
The vice president's trip comes several days after Qatar's foreign minister said his country had sent a low-ranking representative to last week's Arab League summit in Baghdad in order to send a message over "factionalism in Iraq," the state-run Qatar News Agency reported.
In February, Iraq's top judicial committee accused al-Hashimi's security detail of carrying out 150 attacks against security forces and civilians between 2005 and 2011.
Al-Hashimi said the nine-judge council was under the control of the Shiite-dominated central government and the allegations were "politically motivated."
The charges against al-Hashimi appear to be based on the purported confessions of three men, identified as the vice president's security guards.
Iraqi state-run TV aired video of the men's confessions in December. CNN has not been able to verify their identities independently.
CNN''s Mohammed Tawfeeq and Saaed Abedine contributed to this report.
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