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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 May, 2004, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Iraqis 'will forgive jail abuse'
A group of bound Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
Photos of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners have shocked the world
The people of Iraq will forgive US-led occupying forces for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, according to a senior coalition spokesman.

Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt told the BBC's Talking Point programme that the photos of abuse by US soldiers at the Baghdad jail were not representative.

He described the scandal as a "failure of leadership" involving a maximum of 20 soldiers.

It was being fully investigated by the US military, Gen Kimmitt added.

The abuses committed at Abu Ghraib, the feared Saddam Hussein-era prison now run by coalition forces, outraged the world after a stream of photos apparently taken by guards emerged.

In the vast majority of cases, coalition soldiers have treated the people of Iraq with respect - we are attempting to build a partnership with the people of Iraq
Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt

One soldier has been convicted and six others are facing military charges over their alleged abuse of detainees at the jail.

"It's because the scale of this was so small that the people of Iraq will forgive us," said Gen Kimmitt, the deputy director of coalition operations in Iraq .

"Most of the people in Iraq recognise that was an isolated incident and our investigations continue to demonstrate that it is fairly isolated and not representative of the 135,000 soldiers who are doing the right thing under tough circumstances every day."

'No wedding'

Gen Kimmitt said coalition troops had great respect for life, in contrast with the "terrorists" who placed car bombs in crowds and near schools.

And he insisted that there was no evidence that US forces had attacked a wedding party during an operation near the Syrian border that left dozens dead.

"Ground forces didn't find any indication that there had been a wedding there in the previous hours," he said.

He added that there was a significant amount of property inside the location that indicated it was a safe house for foreign fighters opposed to the US-led occupation of Iraq, including weapons, satellite communication equipment and a "miniature hospital".

He said the casualties found at the site were mainly military aged men, although six women had also died in the American attack. No children were killed, he insisted.

Gen Kimmitt added that following the release of a video apparently showing the bodies of musicians who had earlier been entertaining a group pf people at the site, an "open and honest" investigation had been launched by the US military.

"There may have been a celebration going on... (but) to suggest that somehow we had a wedding party going on there is not borne out by the facts on the ground."

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