Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton Tuesday vowed to rein in huge private security contractors like Blackwater in Iraq if she is elected president next year.

Clinton slammed the Bush administration for pushing “billions of dollars out of the door to these contractors” during a meeting with supporters in rural Iowa.

“We have got to rein them in,” Clinton said. “They have no accountability, we have seen that with Blackwater.”

“It is a disgrace that they have got all that money, they are not answerable to anybody.”

The contractor shot to prominence on September 16, when its guards, protecting a State Department convoy in Baghdad, opened fire in a crowded square killing 17 civilians.

Blackwater said its men were fired upon first, but the Iraqi government called the killings unprovoked.

Congressional backers of Blackwater have argued that the firm is vital to US operations in Iraq because it protects diplomats and high-level visitors, freeing up US troops combat and stability missions.

During her event, before several hundred people in a frigid barn on the Iowa prairie, Clinton did not mention her two chief rivals for the Democratic nomination John Edwards and Barack Obama, who have been subjecting her to a fierce grilling over the last week.

Edwards was in the key midwestern state on Monday, where he castigated Clinton for acting like a “hawk” in Washington and a “dove” among campaign trail Democrats wary of the prospects of a US military strike on Iran.

Obama pressed home the attack Tuesday before starting a bus tour through Iowa, which holds first party nominating contests on January 3.

He tackled the former first lady on the time-honored battleground of ethanol, one of Iowa’s top products, accusing her of doing a U-turn on subsidies.

“It’s hard to believe that she is a strong ethanol supporter given her track record and this is something that represents a major reversal,” Obama told the Des Moines Register newspaper in an interview.

“If she’s willing to shift this quickly on this issue, we don’t know whether she will shift back when it gets hard.”

The Obama campaign has accused Clinton of making votes “against ethanol” during her tenure in the Senate.

Obama and Edwards have been trying to paint Clinton as prey to each political wind, arguing she does not stand on principle but shifts position for political advantage.

The Clinton campaign accuses her two rivals of launching desperate negative attacks, in a bid to topple her from her commanding position atop opinion polls.

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