- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq’s government spokesman says the former Blackwater Worldwide security firm may have some presence in Iraq until next year.

Ali al-Dabbagh says the company’s helicopters could continue operating in Iraq until May 2010. That significantly extends the company’s role in Iraq after being ordered out following a September 2007 shootout that left 17 Iraqis dead.

Al-Dabbagh says the stopgap measure is needed because Iraq doesn’t have the capacity to protect diplomatic convoys with air power.

His comments Tuesday follow reports the North Carolina-based company _ now known as Xe (pronounced ZEE) _ will continue some work in Iraq at least until the summer. The State Department earlier said it would stop using the company for diplomatic protection on May 7.

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