#1 - JRL 7137
US investigates Russian convoy shooting in Iraq
WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - The United States said on Tuesday it was investigating how Russian diplomats came under fire in Iraq while driving to Syria, saying it was unclear who shot at them despite a statement by the Russian ambassador to Iraq blaming U.S. forces.
The envoy, Vladimir Titorenko, told reporters on Monday that after the convoy left Baghdad U.S. forces fired at them for about 40 minutes. The Russian foreign ministry has said five of its diplomats were injured in the incident on Sunday.
"The United States is investigating the regrettable April 6 incident in which Russian diplomats and others traveling with them came under fire while leaving Baghdad for Syria," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in a statement.
"No determination has yet been made as to precisely what happened or whose forces were involved. We are trying to establish these facts," he added, saying the State Department viewed the incident as a matter of "extreme seriousness" and would convey the investigation's results to Moscow.
The U.S. Army has said it had no troops in the Baghdad suburb where the incident took place, but a Russian television correspondent who had been in the convoy said it had been caught in cross-fire between U.S. and Iraqi forces.
In Moscow, a senior U.S. diplomat on Monday said the incident took place in an area where U.S. forces were active.
A State Department official denied a Russian newspaper report suggesting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had demanded that the Russian diplomats leave Baghdad and said U.S. officials advised the Russians on their route.
"He (the ambassador) got instructions to go along one road but he went along another road. We recommended that they leave a long time ago," said the State Department official, who asked not to be identified.