Blackwater Worldwide, which guards American diplomats in Iraq, said Thursday it would be prepared to leave that country within 72 hours after Iraqi officials denied the North Carolina-based company an operating license because of a deadly shooting spree in Baghdad.
But Blackwater founder Erik Prince told The Associated Press that while losing the State Department contract would hurt the company, the move would cause more harm to the diplomats it has protected since soon after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
"Our abrupt departure would far more hurt the reconstruction team and the diplomats trying to rebuild the country than it would hurt us as a business," Prince said Thursday in an exclusive interview with the AP.
Iraqi officials said the lingering outrage over a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead led to its decision.
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