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Iraqis want contractors liable Print

Cabinet presses to end the immunity given to foreign security firms.
By Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer  - October 25, 2007

BAGHDAD -- The Cabinet of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has decided to press for repeal of the law that gives foreign security contractors immunity from legal action in Iraq, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

A new measure being drafted by government officials would hold private contractors accountable to Iraqi courts for their actions. Maliki spokesman Ali Dabbagh said the Cabinet would send the proposal to parliament next week.

The announcement came a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled tougher restrictions on the contractors, whose run-ins with Iraqi citizens have become an increasing source of resentment.

Under a rule imposed by American authorities after the U.S.-led invasion, contractors working for multinational forces cannot be prosecuted under Iraqi law. The impunity has fostered reckless disregard for Iraqi lives, critics contend.

Pressure for a change mounted last month after guards from Blackwater USA employed by the State Department were involved in a shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead.

Also Wednesday, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, said at a news conference that he expected improving Iraqi forces to resume command over at least half of Baghdad's security within a year.

U.S. forces have taken the lead across much of the capital in recent weeks under a troop buildup launched by the military this year. Odierno and his Iraqi counterpart credited the so-called surge with reducing terrorist and criminal acts in the capital to their lowest levels in eight months.

In violence Wednesday, a double bombing near a gathering spot for laborers in the Jissir Diyala neighborhood of southeast Baghdad left 11 dead, Iraqi police said. Three of the victims were police officers, police said. Also, the bodies of six gunshot victims were found in the capital, police said.

The U.S. military said an American soldier died of injuries suffered in a mine explosion during operations in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad. Three other soldiers were injured.

Elsewhere in the province, another U.S. soldier was killed and five wounded during combat operations near the town of Baiji.

At least 3,835 American military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003, according to the website icasualties.org.

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