Turkey FM says wanted Iraqi leader should stay in Iraq

AFP , Saturday 24 Dec 2011

While Iraq's vice president, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued by his government, takes refuge in Kurdish region, Turkish foreign minister does not rule out granting asylum

Turkey's foreign minister on Saturday urged Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, facing an arrest warrant on terror charges, to remain in Iraq but said Turkey would not turn him away if he requested asylum.

"What would be appropriate for us is that Mr Hashemi should stay within the Iraqi territory," said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in televised remarks broadcast by the state-run Turkish Radio and Television.

Davutoglu said Turkey's doors were open to him but that he would prefer him to stay in Iraq and contribute to a solution to political the problems facing his country.

Hashemi, a member of Iraq' Sunni Arab minority who has fled to the autonomous Kurdish region, is the subject of an arrest warrant that has plunged the country into political chaos. Davutoglu said the gravity of the allegation faced by Hashemi could not be minimised.

"This is a very serious accusation and I think it must be clarified as soon as possible," he said.

Asked about Turkey's response if the Iraqi leader requested asylum from Turkey, which shares a border with Iraq, Davutoglu said: "Our tradition requires us not to say 'no' to any statesman who requests asylum from Turkey."

A five-member judicial panel has issued a warrant for Hashemi's arrest on terror charges. Hashemi says that the charges are politically motivated and that he would accept trial before a court in the Iraqi Kurdish region.

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