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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 October, 2003, 07:03 GMT 08:03 UK
US general: 'I'm not anti-Islam'
Lt Gen William Boykin
Lt Gen Boykin has a glittering military record
A leading US general has apologised for appearing to cast the war on terrorism as a spiritual battle between Christianity and Satan.

Evangelical Christian Lieutenant-General William G Boykin said in a statement that he never meant to offend Muslims.

"I am not anti-Islam or any other religion... I support the free exercise of all religions," he said.

Referring to a Muslim fighter in Somalia, General Boykin had said: "My God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."

In his statement, he said his comment had been misinterpreted.

"My comments to Osman Otto in Mogadishu were not referencing his worship of Allah but his worship of money and power; idolatry," he said.

"He was a corrupt man, not a follower of Islam."

Pentagon 'embarrassed'

The three-star general's statements came in speeches - some made in uniform - at evangelical Christian churches.

In several of speeches, General Boykin said the real enemy was not Osama bin Laden but Satan.

The BBC's Pentagon correspondent, Nick Childs, says top US defence officials pointedly declined to criticise the general, but the row clearly embarrassed the Pentagon and the Bush administration.

In particular, the general's remarks brought anger from the Council on American-Islamic Relations which pointed out that Muslims believe in the same God as Jews and Christians.

General Boykin enjoys a glittering military record as an officer and a commando and is currently deputy under-secretary of defence for intelligence.

But correspondents say the remarks appear to run counter to the Bush administration's insistence that the campaign against terrorism is not directed against Islam.

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