EU to condemn Iraq abuse as US scandal grows

Published on May 17, 2004 06:04 PM IST

European Union foreign ministers were set on Monday to condemn US soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners, saying the actions breached international law.

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PTI | ByReuters, Brussels

European Union foreign ministers were set on Monday to condemn US soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners, saying the actions breached international law, according to a draft text obtained by Reuters.

"The Council expressed its strongest condemnation of incidents involving the abuse and degradation of prisoners in Iraq by soldiers of the occupying forces," a draft statement said. "Such actions are contrary to international law."

Seven US military police reservists have been charged after pictures showed grinning troops beside naked detainees piled atop one another and subjected to other humiliations in the Abu Ghraib prison near Bagdhad.

"The Council welcomed the commitment of the US and UK authorities to bring to justice persons guilty of such abuses and their determination to implement measures to prevent any such abuses in the future," the draft statement added.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, an outspoken opponent of the US-led war last year to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, said the abuse was "not acceptable".

"It cannot be useful for the United States, not for all international democracies," he told reporters ahead of the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

As the United States and its ally Britain struggle to contain the scandal, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw cast doubt on allegations of abuse by British soldiers in southern Iraq last September.

Rumsfeld Allegation

On Friday, the Danish Defence Ministry said two Danish army medics in Iraq saw two prisoners at a British field hospital who had been beaten, one of them to death.

"It's being looked at by the British authorities although speaking for myself I have to say that I have seen no collateral supporting evidence in respect of this," Straw told reporters.

Washington insists a small number of low-level guards were to blame for the harsh tactics used to soften up those interrogated.

But efforts to dampen the scandal were dealt a blow on Sunday by reports, vehemently disputed by the Pentagon, that the abuse was part of an interrogation technique personally approved by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The New Yorker magazine said Rumsfeld authorized expanding to Abu Ghraib methods used in Afghanistan against suspected members of al Qaeda, blamed for September, 2001 attacks o n the United States.

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