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Cousin's death ruled self-defence: Iraq's US envoy

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 (Reuters) Baghdad's new ambassador to Washington today said the US military had told him the shooting death of his cousin last year in Iraq was in ''self-defence,'' an incident at the time he called ''cold-blooded murder.'' Samir Sumaidaie, currently Iraq's UN ambassador, told Reuters he would not dispute the military's findings until he saw the actual report.

The ambassador presented his credentials to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday and expects to meet President George W Bush shortly. He will be Iraq's first ambassador in the United States in 15 years.

Sumaidaie, a Sunni, has said the killing last June 25 took place in his ancestral village in western Anbar province, where US-led forces had been trying to prevent foreign militants from coming into Iraq.

Asked about the US response to the shooting, Sumaidaie said, ''They told me it was in self-defense.'' His cousin Mohammed Sumaidaie, 21, was killed when he showed Marines, who were conducting house-to-house searches, an old rifle which had no live ammunition. When the Marines left, smiling, the young man was found in the bedroom with a bullet in his neck, the ambassador said at the time.

''All indications point to a killing of an unarmed innocent civilian -- a cold-blooded murder,'' Sumaidaie said last July.

While US diplomats at the United Nations had immediately expressed condolences, the military said it was investigating the allegations that ''roughly correspond to an incident involving coalition forces on that day.'' Sumaidaie had given a blow-by-blow account in an e-mail to friends and reporters shortly after the incident, lamenting the fact that his young cousin was happy to see the Marines as he was practicing his English. A younger brother of Mohammed was beaten, the ambassador said.

Sumaidaie became Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein ambassador to the United Nations in July 2004. He had been an interior minister in the new Baghdad government after returning from exile in London where he was involved in opposition groups.

The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iraq after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait in mid-1990 and restored them in June 2004.


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