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Britain, Poland Condemn Iraqi Prisoner Abuse - 2004-05-06

The leaders of Britain and Poland have condemned the abuses of prisoners by coalition forces in Iraq, but say they remain committed to completing the mission there.

Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski and British Prime Minister Tony Blair say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq must end, and the perpetrators must be punished. But both men said the abuses are an abnormality, and most coalition troops in Iraq are performing their service admirably.

They spoke at a joint news conference in London about the recent reports of humiliating and abusive treatment of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. and British troops.

President Kwasniewski said the prison incidents are evidence that violence breeds more violence.

"It is another argument for me to try to find non-military solutions in Iraq, because the prolonging struggle and acts of terror and reactions to acts of terror in Iraq and acts of violence, unfortunately, generate such situations," he said. "In a world filled with lots of violence, you lose the demarcation line between good and evil."

Prime Minister Blair, who was asked if the coalition had lost the moral high ground in Iraq, said the situation must be kept in perspective.

"I simply say to people, to get a proper sense of balance, where we take the action that is necessary to ensure this does not happen again, and that we root out those people who are responsible for such things, because there can be no place for them whatever," he said. "We went to Iraq to stop that type of thing, not to do it ourselves."

Mr. Kwasniewski rejected as "irresponsible" a question of whether Poland might schedule a pullout of its troops from Iraq, following hints of such a move from the new Polish government.

The president said Poland is prepared to maintain its 2,400-troop contingent, and will do nothing, in his words, "to increase the chaos in Iraq."

Britain also is in discussions with the United States to increase its 7,500 troop force in Iraq. British newspapers report as many as 2,000 Royal Marines are ready for deployment. But the defense ministry calls the reports "speculative."