A British defense minister said in Parliament Thursday that controversial photos published earlier this month by the Daily Mirror newspaper could not have been taken in Iraq. The photographs allegedly showed a British soldier urinating on a hooded Iraqi detainee.

The photographs that sparked a firestorm of debate in Britain and a broad military investigation have now largely been discounted by a military police investigation team.

Britain's Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram made the disclosure in the House of Commons.

?These pictures were categorically not taken in Iraq,? he stated. ?Moreover, I can also tell the House that this is not only the opinion of the SIB [Special Investigations Branch] investigators, it has been independently corroborated. The truck in which the photographs were taken was never in Iraq.?

Mr. Ingram said that criminal offenses may have been committed by those involved in the taking of the photos, but he underlined that the investigation was still under way and no conclusions could be drawn until that process had been completed.

He also urged the Daily Mirror, a popular tabloid that published the photos, to cooperate in the special military investigation.

?I call again on the editor of the Daily Mirror to assist fully in this inquiry,? he said. ?From the start of this episode, the Daily Mirror has demanded that the MOD [Ministry of Defense] and the army operate under the highest standards both in honesty, openness and professionalism. I now challenge the Daily Mirror to do the same.?

Earlier this week, the newspaper appeared to backpedal on its earlier statements about the authenticity of the photographs. In a statement issued on Monday, the Daily Mirror said the pictures ?accurately illustrate? the abuse of a detainee by British soldiers.

Regardless of the genuineness of the photos, many military observers here say the damage in the Arab world has already been done.

Mr. Ingram told his parliamentary colleagues that the pictures have endangered the safety of the nearly 8000 British forces currently stationed in southern Iraq.

He told The House that all prisoner abuse claims are being taken very seriously. He added that two investigations are nearly complete and prosecutions could soon follow.