QALACHWALAN, Iraq - The Sunni vice president wanted for allegedly running a hit squad in Iraq on Friday accused Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of waging a campaign against Sunnis and pushing the country toward sectarian war.
In an interview, Tariq al-Hashemi said Maliki wants to get rid of all political rivals and run Iraq like a "one-man show."
The comments by Iraq's highest-level Sunni political figure reflect the mounting sectarian tensions surrounding the confrontation between him and the prime minister that have hiked fears that Iraq could be thrown into new violence following the exit of American troops.
The crisis taps into the resentments that have remained raw in Iraq despite years of effort to overcome them, with minority Sunnis fearing that the Shiite majority is squeezing them out of any political say, and Shiites suspecting Sunnis of links to insurgency and terrorism.
"He's pushing the things to a catastrophe," Hashemi said of the prime minister.
He spoke at a guesthouse of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the mountains overlooking the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. He has refused to go back to Baghdad, where he says he cannot get a fair trial on what he calls trumped-up charges.