Bush backs Rumsfeld over abuse

In the face of global condemnation of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of US troops Mr Bush insisted his Pentagon chief was doing a superb job.

Emerging from a closed-door military briefing on Iraq, Mr Bush promised a “full accounting” for the abuse.

But the president made clear he was not ready to seek Mr Rumsfeld’s ouster, even as he braced for the release of more photographs detailing the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

“You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defence, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude,” Mr Bush told Mr Rumsfeld.

Mr Bush appeared with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, to underline the importance of the message.

“There will be a full accounting for the cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees,” said Mr Bush, who called the abuse “an insult to the Iraqi people and an affront to the most basic standards of morality and decency.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr Bush was shown more than a dozen images, but the Pentagon would decide if and when to make more pictures public.

However, Arab commentators have reacted with shock and disbelief over Mr Bush’s robust backing of Mr Rumsfeld against calls for him to quit.

Omar Belhouchet, editor of the influential Algerian national daily El Watan, said he finds it incredible Mr Bush has congratulated Mr Rumsfeld.

He warned that Mr Bush’s praise for Mr Rumsfeld will discredit the United States and further damage its reputation, already at a historic low in the Arab world.

In another development, pictures of some of the abused prisoners and vengeful inscriptions have been found on desecrated graves of British soldiers of World War One in Gaza City.

The cemetery curator said around 10 men smashed more than 30 tombstones in the northern Gaza City cemetery on the weekend.

He said some of the graves also bore the Nazi swastika and the English word “revenge” scrawled on them.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission said the Gaza cemetery contains 3,217 Commonwealth burials from World War One, 781 of them unidentified. Another 210 burials are from World War Two.

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