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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 18:39 GMT
Arabs feel 'abuse' photos impact
The allegations that British troops have been torturing Iraqi prisoners have not yet had the impact in the Arab world that the Abu Ghraib scandal did.

But the story is being reported in newspapers and the satellite television networks, even as the Arab world prepares for the major annual holiday, Eid al-Adha.

"Understandably it's been covered quite extensively and the commentary is a mixture of indignation and anger," said Jihad Ballout, spokesman for al-Jazeera.

"Commentaries talk about the parallels between what is going on with the British soldiers and the Abu Ghraib issue... and there has been a sense that: well, why should we be surprised."

In Egypt, the mainstream broadsheet al-Ahram entitled one photograph "the Brutality of Occupation".

Another Egyptian newspaper, al-Akhbar, said it was evidence of "the latest crimes by British forces in Iraq".

Causing offence

The pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat said it would not be showing the photographs - perhaps meaning in particular those alleged to show Iraqis being forced to simulate sexual acts - because they were simply too offensive.

In Jeddah, the editor of the Saudi paper Arab News told BBC Middle East correspondent Paul Wood that he didn't want to risk publishing the pictures now, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, for fear of inflaming passions among more than two million people gathered together in Mecca.

But it is the reaction on the Arab street and in Iraq itself that matters most.

Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based newspaper al-Quds says UK forces have done well to present a more human and understanding face than American forces in the area they occupy in southern Iraq.

"These pictures will shatter this image, and will inflict damage to the British standing in the Middle East, two weeks away from the [Iraq] elections," he told BBC News.

Our correspondent says that British forces must hope now there is not a similar reaction among the Shia population in southern Iraq, where they carry out their patrols.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the pictures are "shocking and appalling", but that they are not representative of the British armed forces as a whole.


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