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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Bush appeal to Arabs in abuse row
President Bush
Bush is trying to limit the damage caused by the abuse scandal
US President George W Bush is to appear on Arab TV channels on Wednesday in an attempt to regain trust after US forces were caught in an abuse scandal.

Photographs have emerged showing inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad stripped naked and humiliated.

Mr Bush will say the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners is "shameless and unacceptable", his spokesman said.

The US military has admitted to 25 deaths in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, including two murders.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president would offer 10-minute interviews to the US-sponsored al-Hurra television network and the Arab network al-Arabiya.

We are deeply sorry for what has happened to these people and what the families must be feeling. It's just not right. And we will get to the bottom of what happened,
Condoleezza Rice
US National Security Adviser
Al-Arabiya is a mainly Saudi-owned pan-Arab satellite channel. Across the Arab world, al-Arabiya probably has about 20 million viewers, as compared to al-Jazeera's 35 million.

Like al-Jazeera, the channel has been accused by US and Iraqi officials of encouraging attacks on US troops, giving too much prominence to anti-US attacks and providing a forum for opposition to the occupation.

Al-Hurra TV is also a satellite channel. It is funded by the US to the tune of $62m and broadcasts from Springfield, Virginia.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that about 20 to 25% of Iraqis have access to satellite TV.

Damage limitation

"This is an opportunity for the president to speak directly to the people in Arab nations and let them know that the images that we all have seen are shameless and unacceptable," Mr McClellan said.

ABU GHRAIB REPORT FINDINGS
Detainees threatened with loaded pistol
Inmates beaten and sexually abused
Prisoners photographed in sexual positions
Detainees threatened with dogs

"These images do not represent what America stands for, nor do they represent the high standards of conduct that our military is committed to upholding," he continued.

Mr Bush's appearances are the latest attempt to limit the damage from the scandal, which has caused anger in Arab states and shock and condemnation around the world.

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave an interview to al-Arabiya on Tuesday in which she expressed "the United States' deep sorrow over the US troops' abuses against the Iraqi prisoners".

She told the channel that President Bush was "disturbed by the distressing pictures".

Deaths in custody

Also on Tuesday US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said those responsible for the "unacceptable and un-American" conduct would be brought to justice.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner is seen at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq in this undated photo. (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
A US report spoke of 'sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses' at Abu Ghraib jail (AP/Courtesy The New Yorker)
The Pentagon has confirmed that criminal charges have been filed against six US soldiers in relation to the photos, while six senior officers have been reprimanded.

But there have been concerns that the mistreatment is more widespread.

A senior army official said there had been investigations into 25 cases of death and 10 of abuse in US custody in Iraq or Afghanistan since December 2002.

Of the 25 deaths, 12 were found to be either of natural or undetermined" causes, one was a "justifiable homicide", and two were murders. Ten inquiries are taking place, he says.

Fresh allegations of US brutality against Iraqis emerged on Wednesday.

The UK's human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, said she has for months been pursuing the case of a 73-year-old woman who claims she was taken to a prison, hooded, made to go on all fours, told she was a donkey and was then "ridden" by her tormenters.

Deepening scandal

The abuse scandal has deepened with the revelation that a report into mistreatment at Abu Ghraib was commissioned in January and completed in early March, but had still not been read by Mr Rumsfeld as of Tuesday.

The report by Maj Gen Antonio Taguba found evidence of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses of Iraqi prisoners", including sexual abuse.

Members of the US Senate Armed Services Committee have demanded to know why they were kept in the dark about the report, and have called for an opportunity to question Mr Rumsfeld.

The BBC's Nick Childs in Washington says there's no hiding the dismay in the Bush administration and the Pentagon over the political fallout from this controversy.

He adds that it is puzzling why, when it knew some weeks ago that these photographs were going to be published, that it didn't do more to try to pre-empt the furore.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Clive Myrie
"Pentagon officials also have questions to answer"



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