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Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 12:44 UK

US marine removed over coin claim

File photo of Marines at a checkpoint in Falluja
The coins were reportedly distributed at a checkpoint in Falluja

A US marine in Iraq has been removed from duty following claims that he handed out coins inscribed with biblical verses in Arabic.

Residents in Falluja had complained that the coins were being distributed at a checkpoint, the US military said.

US troops are forbidden from proselytising any religion.

The case comes a week after US President George Bush made a personal apology over a US soldier in Iraq shot holes into a copy of the Koran.

In the Falluja incident, a military statement said a service member had been discharged "amid concerns from Falluja's citizens regarding reports of inappropriate conduct".

A report from McClatchy News Service carried a photo of a silver coin it said had been distributed in the Iraqi city.

Written in Arabic script on one side of the coin were the words: "Where will you spend eternity?"

On the other side, the news service said there was a Bible verse referring to Jesus: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."

Koran shooting

Military spokesman Mike Isho told McClatchy that marines at the western gate in Falluja had been searched following a report about the coins.

One man found with the coins was reassigned and would no longer be working in the central Anbar province, he said.

The military said coalition forces were prohibited from "proselytising any religion, faith or practices, and our troops are trained on those guidelines before they deploy".

It is still investigating the incident and says "appropriate action will be taken" if claims about the coins are substantiated.

Earlier this month, a soldier was sent home from Iraq after a Koran was found riddled with bullets in a shooting range near Baghdad.

The incident triggered a violent protest by more than 1,000 people in Afghanistan in which three people died.

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