Qatar has rejected Baghdad's demand to hand over Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is accused of running a death squads, and who arrived in the Gulf state on Sunday.
"Diplomatic norms and the post of Hashemi prevent Qatar from doing such a thing," said Khaled al-Attiyah, Qatar's state minister for foreign affairs, on Tuesday.
"Mr Hashemi came in his capacity as a vice president and he continues to occupy this post, and has not been sentenced or stripped of his title," said Attiyah.
Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's deputy prime minister, said on Monday that Qatar's decision to host Hashemi, the top Sunni official in Iraq's government, was "unacceptable".
Heshemi arrived in Qatar from Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region where he had been living since December.
"Qatar should review its position and send al-Hashemi back to Iraq so that he stands trial," Shahristani said.
Hashemi disputes the validity of Baghdad's extradition request, saying he enjoys constitutional immunity and has not been convicted.
"Why do they demand that Qatar extradite me? Officials in Kurdistan have responded to a similar request by telling them that I have immunity according to Article 93 [of the Iraqi constitution]," said Hashemi told reporters in Doha, the Qatari capital.
He has denied the charges against him, saying they are "politically motivated". Hashemi told Al Jazeera in December that he never fled Baghdad for Kurdistan.
Hashemi said he was willing to return and stand trial if he had a guarantee that a "minimum requirement of justice is available".
After arriving in Doha, Hashemi met Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to discuss "relations between the two brotherly countries and developments in the region", according to Qatari state news agency QNA.
QNA added that he was to meet Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al Thani, before visiting unnamed other countries and returning to Kurdistan.
Shahristani also said Kurdistan, where Hashemi had been staying since charges were issued against him in December, had committed a "clear challenge to law and justice" by allowing him to leave Iraq.
Baghdad had demanded that Kurdistan hand over Hashemi to face justice, but the region declined to oblige.
The row is the latest sign of worsening ties between the central government and Kurdish authorities in Arbil, with the two sides arguing over disputed territory in north Iraq, dozens of energy contracts awarded by Kurdistan, and Kurdish claims that Baghdad is consolidating power.
Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, told a news conference on Sunday that Hashemi "is wanted in a member country of the Arab League, and he should not be received, especially under the title of vice president".
The accusations were leveled against Hashemi the day after US forces withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, and have resulted in a worsening political feud.
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|William A. Cook|
|Timothy V. Gatto|