BAGHDAD — Iraq's fugitive vice president was in Turkey on Tuesday, his third stop in a regional tour 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.
Istanbul is the third stop on a trip that has also taken him to Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where al-Hashemi sought political support as he tries to bolster his case that he remains a key member of Iraq's government despite being a wanted man in Baghdad.
He is expected to do the same in Turkey, although is it unclear how long he intends to stay. Erdogan is on an official visit to China until late Wednesday, and is scheduled to leave for Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
There was no immediate comment from Turkish or Iraqi officials on al-Hashemi's trip.
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 was effectively out of reach from state security forces loyal to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al-Hashemi started his trip with a visit to the Gulf state of Qatar, where he met with the nation's emir and 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.
Al-Hashemi then flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia last week, where he was met by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
Separately in Iraq, lawmakers said Tuesday they approved a law a day earlier establishing the country's first independent human rights commission. It is charged with monitoring and investigating allegations of rights violations.
"We consider it to be a big achievement on the issue of protecting human rights," lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri said.
The U.S. Embassy issued a statement Tuesday congratulating parliament on its decision to seat the commission, saying the panel "will safeguard the rights guaranteed to all Iraqis by the Iraqi constitution."
Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad, and Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara, Turkey, contributed reporting.