Iraqis expressed outrage after new revelations of prisoner abuse at Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, warning that the images would further inflame already intense anti-Western sentiment.
The government, faced with the need to decry such abuse but avoid further opposition calls for the immediate withdrawal of foreign forces, renewed its condemnation of the 2003 scandal.
New Abu Ghraib images disgust Iraq (AFP)
"The Iraqi government strongly condemns the torture of Iraqi prisoners revealed in the images broadcast and insist that it is not repeated," the government said in a statement.
An official in Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's office said "this serious affair totally contradicts human rights and should not be repeated."
Australian television earlier this week broadcast a new batch of photos linked to the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.
The pictures showed one man covered in what appeared to be excrement, another with a gash in his throat, and an alleged interrogation room covered in blood. Video footage showed a row of naked men apparently masturbating.
For many Iraqis the images, which follow the publication in 2004 of a first series of such pictures, drove home the wrongs of the occupation of their country.
"I felt disgusted when I saw those pictures and I felt at the same time how weak our government is that it can't help its own people," said Sadun Mohammed, sitting in his shop reading an article in the newspaper.
While Iraq's press were filled with accounts of a new crop of photos, newspapers elected not to republish the photographs, which received extensive exposure on satellite television channels.
"I think if we put pictures in the newspaper like this it will just increase the violence," said Naji Hassan, news editor for the independent daily Sabah Al-Jadid. Other editors said the photos were available too late to publish.
"We don't want to publish these pictures because they are humiliating, and if we published this in a newspaper it would be seen by his family, neighbors and neighborhood," added Hassan.
A Pentagon spokesman objected Wednesday to the Australian broadcast because it could "further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world and would endanger our military men and women that are serving in places around the world".
The images, apparently showing dead bodies and bloodied and naked prisoners, were taken around the same time as the original Abu Ghraib abuse pictures leaked two years ago causing caused outrage around the world.
Mike Carey, the producer of the Australian program Dateline, which aired the photographs and videos doubted they could worsen the situation in Iraq.
"I don't think anything that we do here in Australia is going to make their risk any greater or smaller," he said.
Fadel al-Sharaa, a representative of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's political movement, disagreed and expected the photographs to inflame popular sentiment.
"It seems that the occupier still doesn't understand the nature of the Iraqi people," he said. "The Iraqi people cannot be insulted, and this will create massive hostility against the occupier."
Major General Rick Lynch, the spokesman for the coalition forces, however, said that there has been no early indications of problems stemming from the pictures.
"We have not seen over the last 24 hours specific indications the locals have taken up arms at seeing these new pictures," he told reporters. "They were an isolated event and the people involved have been punished."
Outside the ministry of justice in central Baghdad, civil servant Jenan Abed Mohammed still seemed angry over the affair.
"This is a massive insult for all Iraqis and Muslims," she said. "The occupier doesn't understand the true meaning of freedom, which is what they claim they came to Iraq for."
For traffic policeman Raad Saadi at a busy intersection in Baghdad, the images as well as the video broadcast over the weekend of British forces beating up Iraqis, were all indications of the arrogance of the foreign forces.
"If a US or British soldier drives down this street now, he can stop even the convoy of a minister and the minister himself can't say a thing," he said. "They don't respect the system or order and they don't respect the citizen in the street."
Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi of the National Concord Front also expressed shock. "These images are painful and shocking for every Iraqi," he said. "All must respect human rights, even those of criminals in prison."
Journalist Abdel Mutalib Mahmoud asked why images dating from more than two years ago surfaced in the midst of the other controversies, including anger raised over the publication of cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed.
"These pictures are coming right now to distract the Muslims' anger from the Prophet cartoons," he suggested.
Copyright © 2006 AFP