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Sunday, May 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Iraq Notebook
U.S.: Geneva rules didn't fully apply


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WASHINGTON — Presented last fall with a detailed catalog of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the U.S. military responded Dec. 24 with a confidential letter to a Red Cross official asserting that many Iraqi prisoners were not entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Conventions.

The letter, drafted by military lawyers and signed by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, emphasized the "military necessity" of isolating some inmates for interrogation because of their "significant intelligence value" and said prisoners held as security risks could legally be treated differently from prisoners of war or ordinary criminals.

But the military insisted there were "clear procedures governing interrogation to ensure approaches do not amount to inhumane treatment."

In recent public statements, Bush administration officials have said that the Geneva Conventions were "fully applicable" in Iraq. That has put U.S.-run prisons in Iraq in a different category from those in Afghanistan and in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where members of al-Qaida and the Taliban have been declared unlawful combatants not eligible for protection.

Until now, the only known element of the Dec. 24 letter had been a provision described by a senior Army officer as having asserted that the Red Cross should not seek in the future to conduct no-notice inspections in the cellblock where the worst abuses took place.

In congressional testimony last week, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, asserted that the Dec. 24 response demonstrated that the military had fully addressed the Red Cross complaints.

Aide says U.S. ambassador not eyeing Rumsfeld job

The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Daniel Coats, is not in discussions with the Bush administration to succeed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, an embassy aide said in response to a German magazine report.

"There is no truth whatsoever to reports" that national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Coats discussed his possible succession of Rumsfeld during Rice's visit to Berlin last week, said Richard Schmierer, spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in the German capital, Berlin. "The subject did not even come up," Schmierer said in an interview.

Germany's Focus magazine reported that Rice discussed the matter with Coats during the visit. Coats, 61, a former senator from Indiana who served on the Armed Services Committee, would be prepared to take over from Rumsfeld, 71, if the post became available, the magazine said, citing unidentified people in an e-mailed copy of an article to appear in its next edition.

Also ...

A leaked memo from Britain's foreign ministry blasts "heavy-handed tactics" by the U.S. military in Iraq and soldiers' abuse of prisoners, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. London has been Washington's most staunch ally, but the paper said the memo "blows apart" Prime Minister Tony Blair's public insistence that there are no differences between Britain and the United States over strategy. The Foreign Office refused to comment on the report last night.

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