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Iraq's fugitive vice president arrives in Turkey

Iraq's fugitive vice president was in Turkey on Tuesday, his third stop in what he says is an official visit to regional countries that risks complicating Baghdad's relations with its neighbors.

A statement issued late Monday by the office of Tariq al-Hashemi, the top Sunni official in Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, said he arrived in Istanbul and plans to meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss developments in the region.

It isn't clear how long al-Hashemi intends to stay in Istanbul. Erdogan is currently on an official visit to China.

Al-Hashemi is wanted in Iraq on terror charges for allegedly running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government officials and security forces. Iraq's Shiite-dominated government issued a warrant for his arrest in December, touching off a political crisis in Baghdad and deepening the country's sectarian divide just days after the U.S. military withdrawal.

Al-Hashemi, who has denied the charges and says they are politically motivated, took refuge in the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq, where he is effectively out of reach from state security forces loyal to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

His stop in Turkey is the latest on his first trip abroad since the terrorism allegations were leveled against him.

At the start of the month, al-Hashemi traveled to the Gulf state of Qatar, where he met with Qatar's emir and the prime minister. He also gave an interview to pan-Arab television channel Al-Jazeera in which he said the charges were designed to push him out of Iraq's political process.

The foreign trip infuriated Baghdad, which called on Qatar to hand al-Hashemi over. Doha refused.

The dispute heightened tensions between the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and the Gulf Arab countries, which are ruled by Sunnis.

Al-Hashemi then flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia last week, where he was met by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.