A senior U.S. military commander Saturday once again apologized to the Iraqi people for incidents of abuse involving Iraqi prisoners and promised such acts would not occur again. And, in southern Iraq, Shi'ite militiamen waged battle against British forces.

The commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Major General Geoffrey Miller, said a lack of leadership was behind the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by some U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison.

"The alleged abuses, and abuses we have discovered from the investigations, appear to be due to leaders and soldiers not following the authorized policy and lack of leadership and supervision," said General Miller.

The general, responding to questions from reporters in Baghdad Saturday, pledged abuse of prisoners would not happen again.

"What we must do now is, not only use words, but our actions must demonstrate our continuing focus on this, our adherence to the Geneva Conventions and the principles of dignity to each of those individuals, who are protected individuals under the Geneva Conventions," he said. "And, I give you my personal guarantee I will continue to do this 24 hours a day seven days a week."

The general said a mechanism to compensate the victims of abuse is being developed, and should be in place in the next few weeks.

General Miller said, despite calls from some U.S. lawmakers to close the Abu Ghraib prison, the United States will continue to operate the facility. He said there are plans to reduce the population at the prison.

Meanwhile, hundreds of loyalists to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attacked British troops Saturday in the center of Basra, south of Baghdad. They also assaulted the governor's offices there, and fired rocket-propelled grenades at the coalition headquarters.

The British sent in reinforcements, tanks and armored vehicles to secure the area. Several Iraqi insurgents were killed in the gun battles.

The violence erupted a day after a cleric in Basra told worshippers he would offer cash rewards for the killing or capture of British and American troops. He also said anyone who captured female soldiers could keep them as slaves. The cleric, Sheikh Abdul-Sattar al-Bahadli, said his offer was in response to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers.