BAGHDAD  - Iraq's fugitive Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is accused of running a death squad, left Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region for Qatar on Sunday, a statement from his office said. It is the first time that Hashemi has announced a departure from the autonomous region since he fled there in December. Though Baghdad has called for Kurdistan to hand Hashemi over, it has so far declined to do so. Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi "left the Kurdistan region of Iraq this morning, Sunday, going to Doha in the brother state of Qatar," accepting an invitation he had previously received, the statement emailed to AFP said.

During the visit, which will last several days, Hashemi will meet Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabral-Thani, before visiting unnamed other countries and returning to Kurdistan, the statement said.

Qatari state news agency QNA said that Hashemi had "arrived in Doha today (Sunday) in an official visit that will last a few days."

"He was received upon his arrival at Doha International Airport by the Qatari Minister of State Sheikh Hamad bin Nasser bin Jassem al-Thani," QNA reported without giving further details.