NEW: Iraqi official: Iraq's investigation found that "Blackwater committed a crime"
Iraqi government displeased contract was renewed, top adviser says
Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqis, including women and children, in September
Thousands of contractors provide security for U.S. diplomats, workers
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department's renewal of Blackwater's contract to provide security in Iraq "is bad news," an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.
Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 people, including women and children, last September, prompting an outcry and protest from Iraqi officials.
"This is bad news," al-Maliki adviser Sami al-Askari said. "I personally am not happy with this, especially because they have committed acts of aggression, killed Iraqis, and this has not been resolved yet positively for families of victims."
About 25,000 private contractors from three companies protect diplomats, reconstruction workers and government officials in Iraq. Under a provision put into place in the early days of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, security contractors have immunity from Iraqi prosecution.
Watch Iraqis express anger over the announcement »
Al-Askari said he would push for the Iraqi government to contest the contract renewal.
"The U.S. government has the right to choose what contractors it chooses, but Iraq should also have the right to allow or ban certain contractors from operating on its territory," he said.
Al-Askari said there is a general mood of displeasure within the Iraqi government because of the contract renewal.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said a joint Iraqi-U.S. commission was set up after the shootings, and Iraqis told U.S. officials that the rules of engagement and use of force must be changed.
As a result, a State Department security officer accompanies every convoy manned by contractors, Al-Dabbagh said, and every vehicle is outfitted with a security camera. Recordings from the camera are sent to a command center.
Al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government still wants Blackwater to come under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law and its courts.
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Saturday, April 5, 2008
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 7:44 PM