Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has expressed sorrow over the death of an Afghan child killed in a traffic accident involving a U.S. military vehicle.

It is not unusual for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to express sorrow over the death of an American serviceman or woman, whether in combat or in an accident overseas.

But Thursday, Mr. Rumsfeld began a news briefing at the Pentagon with an expression of sorrow over the death of an Afghan child - a child hit by a vehicle driven by a U.S. soldier in Kabul. "Certainly no one can think of a pain worse for a parent than the loss of a child, and certainly our hearts go out to his family," he said.

Pentagon officials say Mr. Rumsfeld's condolences were an effort to reassure the people of Afghanistan that the United States remains concerned about their well-being. They also view it as a reminder that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has always been aimed at the al-Qaida terrorist network and its Taleban supporters, not the civilian population.

But officials also says that in the case of the child's death two days ago, it is still too early to say whether the American driver will face any legal action, or whether the family of the victim will receive any compensation.

Military spokesmen have been quoted as saying the incident occurred on a busy road in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and that the child was among a group that had run in front of the vehicle.

The military is now investigating the accident. Officials say the lead investigating officer may recommend the payment of compensation to the family.