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Bush to Address Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Issue During Appearance on Arab TV - 2004-05-05


President Bush will make an appearance on two Arabic-language television stations to discuss, among other things, the outrage caused by this week's disclosure that several U.S. soldiers had abused Iraqi prisoners.

Arab analysts say the president's interviews might impress Arabs in one way, but any significant change in Arab attitudes toward the United States is not likely unless there are changes in U.S. policy.

The images this week of Iraqi prisoners being abused by U.S. soldiers outraged Americans and damaged U.S. credibility among many Arabs.

Senior White House officials have said that in interviews with two Arabic television stations the president will, among other things, outline what measures are being taken to punish those are responsible for mistreating the Iraqi prisoners.

The president is also expected to repeat his strong condemnation of the abuse.

But, according to the spokesman for the 22-member Arab League, Hossam Zaki, Arabs will be watching to see whether President Bush outlines any new policies. He says although Arabs were shocked by the pictures of the naked and abused prisoners, Arab anger at the United States really focuses on its overall policies toward Iraq, and toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Zaki says condemnation and even prosecutions in the prisoner abuse cases can have only a limited effect. ?As long as the main policies remain unchanged, I think public relations efforts have their limits,? he said.

But Egyptian newspaper columnist Said Sadek Amin says President Bush's interviews will be important even without major policy announcements. The expert on public opinion says it is important for Arabs, and their leaders, to see the President of the United States answering for the actions of his soldiers.

?This is a role model to be followed,? Mr. Amin said. ?I mean if a country or the forces of a country commit atrocities, it has been the custom in the Arab world that the leaders are silent. This is the first time you see a country like the United States (with) atrocities are committed and you find the rulers are not denying it or attacking those who have disclosed this scandal, like what happens in many Arab countries. And, so I hope that Arab leaders learn from the behavior of Bush and will do the same thing regarding the Arab jails.?

During his televised appearances President Bush is also expected to discuss the war in Iraq and the stalled Middle East peace process, including his endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister's Ariel Sharon's controversial plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

The president will be interviewed by reporters from the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya station, and the new U.S. government-financed Arabic television station Alhurra.

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