Image: Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince
Susan Walsh  /  AP
Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 2. The FBI is investigating allegations that Blackwater guards opened fire in Baghdad, killing up to 17 Iraqis. "We welcome the accountability," Prince told "60 Minutes."
updated 10/13/2007 9:21:50 PM ET 2007-10-14T01:21:50

The chief executive of Blackwater USA, whose guards are accused of killing 17 Iraqis in Baghdad last month, says he welcomes the FBI investigation into the shooting and supports the prosecution of any bad acts.

"I'm glad they can be a neutral party," Blackwater founder Erik Prince said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." "And if there's further investigation or prosecution even needed, if someone really did wrong and meant badly, I'm all supportive."

Prince also was to appear in an interview to air Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," and he was interviewed by Newsweek for an article posted Friday night.

Iraqi authorities have asked the U.S. government to sever all contracts in Iraq with Blackwater within six months and hand over the contractors involved in the Sept. 16 shootings in Baghdad's Nisoor Square to face possible trial in Iraqi courts.

They have also demanded that North Carolina-based Blackwater pay $8 million in compensation to each of the families of those killed.

Prince: Guards were fired upon
An Iraqi investigation into the shooting charges that four Blackwater vehicles called to the square began shooting without provocation.

In the interview with CBS, Prince said he has evidence the Blackwater guards were fired upon.

"The fact is three of our vehicles had pock marks in them from incident reports that I saw," Prince said. "So, clearly, our guys were not shooting at each other."

Prince also said one of the Blackwater vehicles was shot through the radiator and had to be towed from the scene.

‘No one's perfect’
"I'm not saying anyone, our guys, no one's perfect," Prince said. "But bad things don't generally happen by themselves. And, you know, this whole incident started with a very large car bomb (that) blew up right outside a venue where one of our teams was there with an American."

Blackwater's spokeswoman did not return messages left by The Associated Press on Saturday seeking comment from Prince, a 38-year-old former Navy SEAL who founded Blackwater in 1997 using millions of dollars he inherited from his family's auto-parts fortune.

The company, headquartered in Moyock, N.C., in the state's northeastern swamplands, is the largest of the State Department's three private security contractors.

Two senior officials have told The Associated Press the State Department may phase out or limit the use of private security guards in Iraq, which could mean canceling Blackwater's contract or awarding it to another company.

Iraqi families sue Blackwater
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the review is still under way, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already implemented some recommended changes aimed at improving government oversight of Blackwater, including having federal agents accompany convoys and installing video cameras in their vehicles.

Families of Iraqis killed in the Sept. 16 attack have sued Blackwater, charging that the firm violated U.S. law and fostered a culture of lawlessness among its employees.

Prince this month told a House committee that while the company supports legislation that would place private security companies working for the State Department under the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, the FBI's investigation is proof that oversight and accountability already exists.

The legislation has since passed, and Prince told "60 Minutes" he welcomes additional oversight.

"We welcome the accountability," Prince said. "We want a good name for this industry."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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