- The Washington Times - Monday, May 10, 2004

VIENNA, Austria — America’s allies in Iraq, voicing disgust at abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops, demanded yesterday that the Pentagon punish those responsible.

The scandal threatened to further unravel the unity and resolve of a coalition already severely tested by escalating bloodshed and last month’s withdrawal of troops by Spain.

Some of the fiercest criticism came from Portugal, which has 128 police officers in Iraq. Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso gave no indication his government would change its policy, but denounced abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison as “vile, degrading, repugnant and revolting.”

“You cannot, in the name of the struggle against terrorism and for the sake of freedom, contravene the very values and principles on which that struggle is based,” he said. “We have already expressed to the American government our disgust at that kind of behavior and the need to find out who was responsible — to put on trial and to punish those who carried out such vile acts.”

Jarring images of prisoners being abused and humiliated by U.S. and British troops appeared at least in part to have prompted Hungary’s leading opposition party to reconsider its support of keeping troops in Iraq.

Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, leader of the Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union, called the situation in Iraq “morally unsustainable.” He said party leaders will meet today to redefine their position on Hungary’s 300 troops in Iraq.

“We are less and less certain of the feeling that we are siding with a good cause,” he said.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called the images “terrible,” while reaffirming that his country’s 3,000 troops will stay in Iraq.

The photos raised doubts in the Netherlands for keeping 1,300 troops in Iraq beyond June 30, said Boris Dittrich, leader of the centrist D-66 party.

“You’re afraid to think that there’s more waiting to come out,” he told the newspaper De Volkskrant. “You don’t want to belong to this kind of a coalition in Iraq.”

Denmark’s 496 troops in Iraq will make more unannounced visits to prisons in their sector, Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade said, conceding the photos “were a problem for the coalition.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose socialist government last month withdrew all 1,300 of its troops from Iraq, delivered a stinging rebuke to the United States.

“In the international society of the 21st century, and even less in Western societies, where we have not only the responsibility but the will to spread universal values and principles, no one can be anything but horrified by these practices and situations,” he said.

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