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Iraq's Cabinet Approves Lifting Immunity for Security Firms


An Iraqi government spokesman says Iraq's Cabinet has approved draft legislation that lifts immunity from prosecution for private security firms in Iraq.

The spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said Tuesday the measure will subject all security companies to Iraqi law and revoke the immunity given to foreign security contractors by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004.

He says the legislation will be sent to the parliament for ratification.

U.S. officials have said a State Department promise of immunity to Blackwater USA guards may have compromised an investigation into last month's shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi citizens.

Blackwater guards are accused of killing the civilians in Baghdad on September 16. The security firm says the Iraqis were killed when guards responded lawfully to an attack on a U.S. diplomatic convoy.

FBI investigators say the probe has been hampered because the State Department promised guards immunity for statements, although the State Department had no authority to do so. Some of the Blackwater guards have since refused to talk to the FBI.

In other news, Iranian media say Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is to visit Baghdad on Wednesday for talks with Iraqi officials on bilateral issues.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.