The commander of Nato troops in Afghanistan has said that he had no regrets about a US apology to Afghans over the burning of the Quran at a US base and voiced hope that the crisis over the incident would soon be over.
Asked in an interview yesterday with ABC World News about criticism by some in the United States for President Barack Obama's apology to Kabul, US General John Allen defended the move and said it had likely saved lives.
"Why wouldn't we?" Allen told the American television network. "This is the central word of God for them. Why wouldn't we? We didn't do it on purpose but we should apologize, and we did."
Allen voiced optimism that unrest sparked by the Quran burning would soon pass and that US relations with Afghanistan would recover from the current tensions.
"Well, we hope it is, we hope it is (over). This relationship is very strong, and we think that the strength of the relationship will carry us through this, and then on to the long-term future that we have together," he told ABC's Martha Raddatz.
"I think the sense of the President (Hamid Karzai) is that they want to move on," he said, according to a transcript of the broadcast.
After copies of the Quran were sent to an incinerator pit at the Bagram airbase two weeks ago, violent anti-US protests erupted in which some 40 people died, including six US soldiers killed by their Afghan colleagues.
Despite the violence, Allen said he called on his commanders to exercise restraint and not to act out of revenge for the attacks on their comrades.
"You know, great powers don't get angry, great powers don't make decisions hastily in a crisis," the general said.
He added: "It's been challenging, but we're going to get through this."
The US military has insisted the Qurans were sent to the incinerator by accident and that the incident was unintentional.
On Monday, Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed at least two civilians at the Bagram base near the Afghan capital Kabul, saying it was revenge for the burning of Qurans there.