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Powell Calls for Stronger Arab Condemnation of Beheading of US Civilian - 2004-05-16

Secretary of State Colin Powell says he would like to see the Arab world issue stronger condemnations of the recent beheading of an American civilian contractor in Iraq.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press television program, Secretary Powell said anger over mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers in no way excuses silence over the grisly videotaped beheading of American contractor Nicholas Berg by terrorists. "There is anger in the Arab world over some of our actions," he said. "But that is no excuse for any silence on the part of any Arab leader for this kind of murder. This kind of murder is unacceptable in anyone's religion, in anybody's political system based on any kind of understanding and respect for human rights. And so I would liked to have seen a much higher level of outrage throughout the world, and especially the Arab world, for this kind of action."

Mr. Powell was speaking in Jordan, where he has been attending an economic forum.

Several Arab states, most recently Jordan, have condemned the beheading of Nicholas Berg as a crime and an affront to Islam. But by most accounts, reaction from the Arab world has been less explosive than the pointed and near-universal condemnation provoked by photographs of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated at the hands of U.S. servicemen.

Secretary of State Powell said there are important distinctions to be made between the two cases: "There can be no comparison to the actions of a few [U.S. soldiers] who are going to be punished and brought to justice as a result of what happened at Abu Ghraib. But what we saw with this horrible, horrible, horrible murder of Mr. Berg should be deplored throughout the world. And the terrible thing about it is that these individuals [who killed Berg] are yet to be brought to justice," he said.

Earlier, on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Powell said that torture of any kind is unacceptable, and that Arab leaders need to root out the practice in their own countries.