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Bush fails to convince Arabs

May 06, 2004 14:19 IST

US President George W Bush's attempts at damage control following the reports of abuse of  Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers is too little, too late, believe most Arab and Iraqi experts.

In an interview with Al Hurra, a US funded Arab channel on Wednesday, Bush said that while the incidents were  'abhorrent,'  the people of Iraq 'must understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know..In a democracy everything is not perfect---mistakes are made.'

But 'we will do to ourselves what we expect of others,' he added, comparing this with ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, where torture was par for the course.

The president said similar things in an interview to al-Arabiyya, another Arab satellite channel.

But the president's attempts to assuage Arab concerns does not seem to have worked.

Arab editors have strongly criticised the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US occupation authorities in Iraq, describing the release of the pictures as a media wake up call, reports the Arabic channel Al Jazeera.  

"They accuse the US of being aware of such violations for months and claim that the Bush administration made great efforts to prevent the US media from making the shocking images public," it said.

Iraqi and Arab sources agree that human rights violations have been taking place in Iraq since the start of the occupation last year and that the pictures released by the US broadcaster CBS represent just one incident, it said.  

'Human rights violations have been systematic in Iraq, which I am sure the US administration will not be able to hide forever. I believe that honourable journalists will stand up to it,' it quoted Abd al-Barri Atwan editor-in-chief of the London based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, as saying.  

'This Greater Middle East that Washington promises is not a recipe for democracy, openness, freedom and respect for human rights; rather, it's a new formula to guarantee US control -- and a way to keep all Arab regimes humiliated and subjugated,' said an editorial in the Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

In Washington, Republican senator John McCain told ABC television he could not rule out the possibility of  defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld being forced to resign over the scandal.   Rumsfeld and joint chiefs of staff chairman General Richard Myers are expected to testify before  a senate committee Friday.

'I want to know when [Rumsfeld] knew about this. He will be grilled pretty good,' a member of the Senate armed services committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss, told CNN.

This follows revelations by the Los Angeles Times that  25 Iraqi and Afghan prisoners had died in US custody in the last 17 months, and that the US military is investigating 35 possible instances of abuse by US personnel.

Reports that Bush knew about the abuse in Iraq in early January but did nothing has also led to anger in Congress, which is also surprised by his request for an additional $25bn for American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The request was expected only after the November presidential elections.



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