US, Iraq to review diplomatic security after deaths

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WASHINGTON, Sep 19 (Reuters) The United States and Iraq today launched a joint commission to review diplomatic security after a shooting involving the Blackwater security firm that drew sharp criticism from Iraq.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the commission would examine ''the broader question of security and safety issues'' of diplomatic operations in Iraq, while separate US and Iraqi investigations were looking into Sunday's shooting in which 11 people were killed.

''The commission's goal is to make joint policy recommendations, including specific suggestions for improving US and Iraqi procedures regarding government-affiliated personal security details,'' Casey said.

The US Embassy in Baghdad said the Blackwater guards were reacting to a car bomb that went off near an official convoy.

According to other accounts, however, the Blackwater guards fired randomly after mortar rounds landed near their motorcade.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki suggested today the US Embassy stop using Blackwater, saying he would not allow Iraqis to be killed in ''cold blood.'' The United States has barred diplomats and civilians from leaving Baghdad's so-called Green Zone by road. The heavily protected area houses the US Embassy as well as many Iraqi ministries and senior officials who are largely protected from the daily violence in other parts of the Iraqi capital.

REUTERS GL BST0005

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