Blair apologises for British abuse

Updated on May 19, 2004 06:30 PM IST

Prime Minister Tony Blair has apologised for British soldiers' mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq as Britain admitted it had known for "several months" of the allegations. "We apologize deeply to anyone who has been mistreated by our soldiers. This is totally unacceptable," he said in the first official admission of abuse by British forces.

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PTI | ByAFP, London

Prime Minister Tony Blair has apologised for British soldiers' mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq as Britain admitted it had known for "several months" of allegations Iraqi prisoners had been abused.

"We apologize deeply to anyone who has been mistreated by our soldiers. This is totally unacceptable," he said in the first official admission of abuse by British forces since shocking pictures were published 10 days ago.

"Those responsible will be punished according to the army disciplinary rules," Blair, who is on a visit to France, told public France 3 television yesterday.

Blair stressed however that the majority of British soldiers did not act like those responsible for the abuses.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman told AFP she could not say whether the statement would also be about a Red Cross report voicing concern over Britons' treatment of Iraqi prisoners.

Late yesterday, Britain's Ministry of Defence admitted it had known for "several months" of the abuse allegations, saying investigations had been going on since last year.

The ministry was responding to the charges by Amnesty that it had first told the government of
the allegations a year ago.

A spokeswoman said that the ministry had been "investigating cases of alleged abuse since way back into last year.

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