BAGHDAD: US President George W Bush has apologised to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and promised prosecution of a US soldier accused of using a copy of the Quran for target practice, Iraq said last night.
Bush apologised in a telephone call on Monday with Maliki, who told him the incident had humiliated and angered Iraq, the cabinet said.
A top uniformed US military officer told the US Congress that Iran is directly jeopardising peace in Iraq, prompting fresh calls from senators that the US pursue diplomatic talks with Tehran.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that "irresponsible actions" by Iran's Revolutionary Guard "directly jeopardise" peace in Iraq.
In another development, the US Senators from both parties have loaded up Bush's war funding bill with a grab bag of domestic programmes, including work permits for immigrant farm labor and heating subsidies for the poor.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said the Senate would begin debate on the measure Tuesday, just days after a key panel added more than $28 billion (BD10.55bn) to Bush's budget request for this year and next, with almost $50bn (BD18.84bn) more for a big expansion of veterans benefits over 2010-2018.
In Baghdad, Tareq Aziz, the international face of the brutal regime of hanged Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, was back in the dock on charges of crimes against humanity - but without any lawyers to defend him.
Aziz, 72, is on trial along with seven other defendants over the execution in 1992 of 42 Baghdad merchants accused of racketeering while Iraq was under UN sanctions.
In Sadr City, some 10,000 Iraqi troops tried to establish government control for the first time since Saddam's ouster. Success relies on whether a truce holds with fighters loyal to Moqtada Al Sadr.
The large force in tanks and Humvees and on foot met no resistance from Al Sadr's Mahdi Army militia as it rolled into the sprawling district.
The Iraqi soldiers and police passed burned out shops and buildings pockmarked with bullet holes but many stores were open, and some residents came out to greet them. Some Mahdi Army fighters passed out copies of the Quran to the soldiers as a sign of goodwill..