Thursday, July 06, 2006


"Reckless" soldiers should stay home: Iraqi PM

By Ibon Villelabeitia

Iraq's prime minister urged the U.S. military on Thursday to keep "reckless" troops from serving in Iraq in order to prevent abuses like the alleged rape and murder of a teenager and her family by U.S. soldiers in March.

Expanding on calls for an independent inquiry and a review of foreign troops' immunity from Iraqi law, Nuri al-Maliki said commanders should do a better job in preparing their soldiers.

"There needs to be a plan to educate and train soldiers, and those who are brought to serve in Iraq shouldn't bear prejudices nor be reckless toward people's honor," Maliki said.

The U.S. military is investigating a group of its soldiers over the rape and killing of a family of four in Mahmudiya, south of the capital, in a case that has strained relations between Washington and Baghdad.

Former private Steven Green, 21, has been charged with rape and murder in a U.S. federal court. He had been discharged from the army because of a "personality disorder" before the case came to light.

At least three other soldiers are being investigated in the case.

"The Mahmudiya incident and other incidents before that ... produce sadness, pain and condemnation from Iraqis," Maliki said.


Maliki, facing pressure from Shi'ites and Sunnis to hold Americans accountable, has slammed a U.S. occupation authority decree that grants immunity from Iraqi law for the 140,000 or so foreign troops in Iraq, saying it "emboldens" soldiers.

"I think this matter has become necessary to review and solve, either by reviewing the issue of immunity or reviewing the nature of the investigating committees," he told reporters in Baghdad, a day after he first called for a review of the law.

The rape and murder case is the fifth in a high-profile series of U.S. inquiries into killings of Iraqi civilians in recent months and has outraged Iraqis.

American commanders, keen to repair the military's tarnished image after three years of complaints from Iraqis that U.S. abuses go unpunished, pressed murder charges against 12 military personnel last month. Marines are under investigation for the killing of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.

Iraqis have complained of Americans' lack of cultural sensitivity -- including searching women's rooms during raids or not taking their boots off when entering. Commanders say they are improving such procedures.

Though heavily dependent on America's military muscle, Maliki faces delicate negotiations with its main ally Washington over how to regulate the presence of the U.S.-led forces in Iraq, now under a U.N. mandate that expires in December.

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