President George W Bush has denounced the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops as “despicable”.
A day after CBS television broadcast images of the alleged abuse, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said such behaviour would not be tolerated.
There is widespread outrage at the graphic images – one shows a hooded and naked prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his genitals.
Last month, the US army suspended 17 soldiers over alleged prisoner abuses.
Elsewhere in Iraq, US marines have begun withdrawing from the Iraqi city of Falluja after a month of bloody clashes with rebels.
Two battalions have been pulling back from front-line positions and are set to move further out during the day.
A new Iraqi force, led by one of Saddam Hussein’s former generals, is expected to move into the city while the US maintains a presence outside the flashpoint city.
Six soldiers – including a brigadier general – are facing court martial in Iraq, and a possible prison term over the PoW pictures taken at the notorious Abu Ghraib detention facility in Baghdad.
The naked prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his genitals was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted, CBS said.
Another image shows naked prisoners being forced to simulate sex acts. In another, a female soldier, with a cigarette in her mouth, simulates holding a gun and pointing at a naked Iraqi’s genitals.
CBS News said it delayed the broadcast for two weeks after a request from the Pentagon due to the tensions in Iraq.
President Bush has known about the allegations of misconduct “for a while” and expects “appropriate action to be taken against these individuals,” the White House spokesman said.
“We will not tolerate it,” Scott McClellan said.
“The military has made it very clear that they are going to pursue, to the fullest extent of the law, these individuals,” he said.
Politicians in the US, Britain and the Middle East have expressed disgust at the images.
A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was “appalled” and described the incident as regrettable.
“Nobody underestimates how wrong this is, but these actions are not representative of the 150,000 coalition soldiers in Iraq. We shouldn’t judge the actions of coalition soldiers as a whole by the actions of a few,” he said.
US Republican congressman, Jim Leach – who had opposed the war – said: “The US has historically prided itself on treating prisoners of war with decency and respect.
“This has to be investigated and accountability obtained within the American military justice system.”
Adnan Al-Pachachi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, said it would create a great deal of anger and discontent among Iraqis already concerned about security in the country.
But he rejected a comparison with the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad during the days of Saddam Hussein.
“I don’t think you can compare the two. Saddam Hussein’s prisoners were not only tortured but executed. It was much worse than what is there now.”
One of the suspended soldiers, Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick, said the way the army ran the prison had led to the abuse.
“We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things… like rules and regulations,” he told CBS. “It just wasn’t happening.”
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