There are growing calls in Congress for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops.
The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, said Secretary Rumsfeld should step down in the wake of the abuse scandal, which has badly damaged U.S. credibility in the Middle East.
"Mr. Rumsfeld has been engaged in a cover-up from the start on this issue, and continues to be so," said Nancy Pelosi.
Members of the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus echoed the call.
But a number of House Republicans defended Mr. Rumsfeld, and accused Democrats of trying to politicize U.S. involvement in Iraq.
At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan expressed President Bush's support for the defense secretary.
"Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a great job on our shared objective for bringing about a safer and better world and a more secure America," he said.
Lawmakers, outraged at the images of U.S. soldiers mistreating and humiliating Iraqi detainees that were broadcast worldwide, adopted a resolution condemning the abuse. One of them suggested Congress consider action to remove Mr. Rumsfeld.
Congressman Charles Rangel is a New York Democrat.
"I think that America and the world wants us to show the outrage, not by rhetoric, but by taking action," he said. "If the president does not fire the secretary, if he [Mr. Rumsfeld] does not resign, I think it is the responsibility of this Congress to file articles of impeachment, and force him to leave office."
Secretary Rumsfeld is expected to face tough questioning about the Iraqi abuse scandal when he appears before the Senate and House Armed Services Committee Friday.
Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee held a closed hearing on the matter Thursday.
Congressman Porter Goss of Florida is the Republican chairman of the panel:
"The House Intelligence Committee routinely and regularly oversees interrogation activity for intelligence purposes, and we are giving comprehensive attention, of course, to these newly discovered abusive treatment cases," said Porter Goss.
In the Senate, lawmakers were moving to confirm U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, as U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
Amid the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal and the rising U.S. costs in Iraq in terms of dollars and lives, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, praised Ambassador Negroponte for his willingness to take on the job.
"Ambassador Negroponte, with the support of his family, has made an extraordinary personal commitment to undertake this difficult assignment," he said. "Our nation is fortunate that a leader of his stature and experience is willing to step forward."
Senator Joe Biden, the top Democrat on the committee, agreed.
"This takes political courage, physical courage, moral courage, quite frankly, to take on this assignment," said Joe Biden. "I cannot think in my years here in the Senate, of a circumstance where we have placed an individual into a position where the degree of difficulty in accomplishing his mission has been as high and the stakes as profound as Ambassador Negroponte is being positioned now."
Ambassador Negroponte's nomination was confirmed by the Foreign Relations Committee and sent to the full Senate last week.