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Pakistan dismisses Newsweek retraction on Koran

Reuters | May 17, 2005

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan dismissed on Tuesday as inadequate an apology and retraction by the Newsweek magazine of a report that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran.

The report in the magazine's May 9 issue sparked protests across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan, where 16 people were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan, India, Indonesia and Gaza.

"The apology and retraction are not enough," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Reuters.

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"They should understand the sentiments of Muslims and think 101 times before publishing news which hurt feelings of Muslims."

The magazine retracted the story on Monday.

Newsweek said in its May 23 edition that the information had come from a "knowledgeable government source" who had said a military report on abuse at Guantanamo Bay had found interrogators had flushed at least one copy of the Koran down a toilet in a bid to make detainees talk.

But the source later told the magazine he could not be certain he had seen an account of the Koran incident in the military report and that it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts, Newsweek said.

The Newsweek retraction came as the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department all strongly criticized the report and said it had damaged Washington's image abroad.

Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, has called on Washington to conduct an inquiry and to share results with Islamabad.

The Pentagon has said that an investigation remained open into allegations contained in the report.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed, head of a hardline six-party Islamic alliance in Pakistan, said Newsweek's retraction was unlikely to cool tempers in the Muslim world.

"Whatever magazine has done now is under pressure (from the U.S. government)," he said. "It has not denied what it has reported and many people freed from Guantanamo Bay have narrated the same thing."

He referred to a report in the Tuesday edition of the Pakistani daily The News that quoted Hafiz Ehsan Saeed, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, as saying that the Koran was routinely desecrated at the U.S. prison.

Saeed was released from Guantanamo Bay in September but has since been held in a Pakistani jail in Rawalpindi, a garrison town close to Islamabad. His reported remarks could not be independently verified.

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