Afghan Quran row: US tenders apology

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 13:05

Washington: Led by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the US has apologised to the people of Afghanistan on the "inappropriate treatment" of the holy Quran by American soldiers at the Bagram Airbase in a central Afghan province.

"We apologise to the Afghan people and disapprove of such
conduct in the strongest possible terms," the White House
Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters at his daily news
conference when asked about the incident at the Bagram air
base resulting in an outrage in the country.

"This was a deeply unfortunate incident that does not
reflect the great respect our military has for the religious
practices of the Afghan people," Carney said, adding that the
US military leaders have apologised for these "unintentional
actions", and ISAF is undertaking an investigation to
understand what happened and to ensure that steps are taken so
that incidents like this do not happen again.

Expressing regret at the incident, Carney said it does
not represent the views of US military, and it certainly does
not represent the conduct of its men and women in uniform, or
America`s general respect for the religious practices and
beliefs of the Afghan people.

The White House statement came hours after the Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, offered his personal apology.
"This morning ISAF Commander General John Allen notified
me of the deeply unfortunate incident involving the
inappropriate treatment of religious materials, including the
Quran, at Bagram Airbase," Panetta said in a statement.

"He and I apologise to the Afghan people and disapprove
of such conduct in the strongest possible terms," said the US
Defense Secretary, adding that these actions do not represent
the views of the United States military.

"We honor and respect the religious practices of the
Afghan people, without exception," he said.

Panetta said he supports General Allen`s swift and
decisive action to investigate this matter jointly with the
Afghan government.
"I will carefully review the final results of the
investigation to ensure that we take all steps necessary and
appropriate so that this never happens again," he said.

The State Department termed it as a "horrific" incident.

The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was briefed
about the incident early in the day.

"The desecration of religious articles is not in keeping
with the standards of American tolerance, human rights
practices and freedom of religion," the State Department
spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, said.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 12:18

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