BAGHDAD – A political crisis unfolding in Iraq intensified Wednesday when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded that Kurdish officials hand over the country’s Sunni vice president to face criminal charges and threatened to purge the fragile coalition government of lawmakers who refuse to work with him.

Maliki, a Shiite, also said he would release what he described as incriminating information about government officials unless they work to stop killings and work to rebuild the country, adding that Iraq’s constitution gives him broad authority and latitude to run the country as he sees fit.

Speaking at news conference broadcast on national television, Maliki said that if leaders in the semiautonomous Kurdistan region do not hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi — who is accused of enlisting personal bodyguards to run a hit squad — “it will stir up problems.”

In a sign of hardening differences, Maliki struck a defiant tone against political opponents who have boycotted parliament and are accusing him of rushing to consolidate power in the wake of U.S. troops’ departure last weekend.

He said that he does not want to be weighed down by the opinions of various political factions and insisted that the government has the right to replace ministers who boycott their jobs over differences with him.

At the same time, he said he would like to make power-sharing work and would seek replacement appointees from rival parties, so long as those rivals share his commitment to rebuild the country.

It is not suitable, Maliki said, to keep talking about “your share and my share,” and “my harmonization here and your harmonization there.”

Maliki also threatened to release investigative files containing allegedly damning evidence about other government officials. “The others, they should at least stop their destruction and killing,” he said. “Otherwise all the files will go out and be put before the judiciary.”

With regard to the vice president, Maliki insisted the charges against him were legitimate and that his government “will provide a fair trial.”

“It is a criminal case,” he said. “It is a matter of blood and souls. I will not allow – the families of the martyrs will not allow – compromise on this case.”

Hashemi has called the charges against him baseless, saying they were trumped up by Maliki. He fled to Kurdistan several days ago and has said he is willing to stand trial there, but not in Shiite-majority Baghdad.

“The judiciary today in Baghdad is not fair,” he said in an interview Wednesday on al-Hurra TV. “It is politicized. There is no transparency. It has been put in the pocket of the government.”

Hashemi told the network that the prime minister has become impossible for other politicians to work with.

“Al-Maliki pushed things in the direction of no return,” he said. “I don’t think, today, there is enough space for a dialogue.”

Hashimi said he is seeking to file a lawsuit against Maliki over the files that the prime minister has said he may turn over to investigators.

“He’s waiting for the right moment to blackmail the politicians,” Hashimi said. “Why is he covering up those crimes? Why does he not present them? Why do these cases remain up to his personal choice?”

Iraq’s Interior Ministry, which is controlled by Maliki, announced the arrest warrant for Hashimi on Monday, the day after the last U.S. troops left Iraq. Maliki said at the news conference that Hashimi was operating outside the law and appeared to think that his position allowed him to do so.

“There is a mechanism all over the world for people who are wanted by the judiciary,” Maliki said. “That’s why we are demanding the brothers in the regional government of Kurdistan bear their responsibility.”

Maliki also said he thought Iraq’s security forces were performing well in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal- a sign of Iraq’s growing sovereignty.

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region, is calling for an emergency conference to avoid political collapse in Iraq.

The White House, meanwhile, has urged Maliki to preserve Iraq’s “inclusive partnership government” and the rule of law across sectarian lines.