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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Biden in Iraq says US to Appeal Blackwater Ruling

Edward Yeranian 23 January 2010

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says the United States will appeal a court decision that dropped charges against American security contractors involved in a deadly shooting in Baghdad in 2007.

Biden announced the government's plan Saturday, following meetings with Iraq's leaders in Baghdad.

Five guards - employees of the company Blackwater - were charged with opening fire on unarmed civilians at a Baghdad intersection, killing 17 people.

A U.S. judge dismissed charges against the guards, saying the U.S. government had violated their constitutional rights.

The decision angered many Iraqis, and the Iraqi government had been preparing legal proceedings in the United States against the company, now called Xe Services.

Biden spent time discussing upcoming elections in Iraq, and the Iraqi government's controversial decision to bar hundreds of candidates linked to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

Biden said the issue is Iraqi's to solve, and expressed confidence that the Iraqis would find a solution.

More than 500 candidates have been blacklisted due to their ties to the outlawed party.

The move has led to charges that the Shi'ite majority is trying to limit the political power of the Sunni minority.

There has also been concern the dispute could hurt national reconciliation efforts and affect the timetable for the U.S. military withdrawal.

The dispute did not delay the formal end of the U.S. Marines mission in the once conflict-ridden Anbar province.

In a ceremony at a base in Ramadi Saturday, the Marines handed over responsibility for the western province to the U.S. Army. Anbar saw some of the war's fiercest fighting.

The few thousand Marines remaining in Iraq will leave in the coming months. The tens of thousands of Army soldiers who remain are set to follow by August.

Anbar province was once the heart of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, until some Sunni leaders changed sides and began fighting Islamic extremists with the Americans.

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

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