Tuesday, October 16, 2007


U.S., Iraqi officials debate Blackwater's expulsion from Iraq

US and Iraqi officials are negotiating Baghdad's demand that security company Blackwater USA be expelled from the country within six months, and American diplomats appear to be working on how to fill the security gap if the company is phased out. The talks about Blackwater's future in Iraq flow from recommendations in an Iraqi government report on the incident Sept. 16 when, Iraqi officials determined, Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation in Baghdad's Nisoor Square and killed 17 Iraqi citizens.
The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, which has since sent them to the US Embassy as demands for action.
Point No. 2 in the report says: "The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws." Sami Al Askari, a top aide to Al Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable.
"I believe the government has been clear. There have been attacks on the lives of Iraqi citizens on the part of that company (Blackwater). It must be expelled. The governmenthas given six months for its expulsion and it's left to the US Embassy to determine with Blackwater when to terminate the contract. The American administration must find another company," he told AP.
In talks between American diplomats and the Al Maliki government, Al Askari said, the US side was not "insisting on Blackwater staying." He was the only Iraqi or American official who would allow use of his name, others said information they gave was too sensitive. In an interview to be broadcast Monday on PBS, television presenter Charlie Rose asked Blackwater chief Erik Prince about the issue."We'll do what we're told and, you know, make the transition as smooth as possible," Prince said.

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