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US Will Appeal Blackwater Court Ruling - Biden

BAGHDAD - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday his government would appeal against a court decision to dismiss charges against Blackwater security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians.

The U.S. federal court decision last month, which found that the defendants' constitutional rights had been violated, angered Iraqis. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has hired U.S. lawyers to prepare a law suit against Blackwater, a security contractor now called Xe Services.

"The United States will appeal this decision," Biden said on a visit to Baghdad. Referring to the court ruling, he said "a dismissal is not an acquittal," and that the U.S. government would lodge the appeal next week.

The former Blackwater security guards were accused of killing the Iraqis at a Baghdad traffic circle in September 2007.

The incident came to symbolise for Iraqis what they saw as foreigners' disregard for their lives after private guards protecting U.S. personnel were given immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

It also threw a critical light on the U.S. use of private security contractors in Iraq.

The guards say they fired in self-defence in the incident, which occurred during some of the worst sectarian violence in Iraq.

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