Wed Jul 5, 2006 11:14 AM ET
By Haitham Haddadin
KUWAIT (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday he would demand an independent Iraqi inquiry into the suspected rape and murder of a teenager and the killing of her family by U.S. soldiers.
"Yes, we will demand an independent Iraqi inquiry, or at least a joint investigation with multinational forces," he told a news conference on a visit to Kuwait.
"We do not accept the violation of Iraqi people's honor as happened in this case. We believe that the immunity granted to international forces has emboldened them to commit such crimes in cold blood and ... there must be a review of this immunity."
One American has been charged in a U.S. court and the rape element means the case -- the fifth U.S. inquiry into killings of Iraqi civilians in recent months -- could be especially damaging for the military in its already fraught relations with Iraqis and their increasingly independently-minded leaders.
"We stress the need for an (Iraqi) presence in the investigations in the crimes committed against the Iraqi people," Maliki said. "This is one of several issues we will discuss with the multinational forces' leadership to find solutions to such practices."
Asked if he thought the teenager's case could lead to early withdrawal of U.S. forces, the prime minister said:
"No, this is a case that needs solving, needs a pause, and needs an investigation but the issue of the presence of the forces and their pullout cannot be subject to such a thing even though we condemn, denounce and reject this.
"The presence of the forces and their withdrawal is bigger than this issue."
Maliki said no schedule has been set for the handover of security responsibilities across the country to Iraqi forces, adding that they would take over this month in some southern regions where security was under control.
"We did not wish to have a specific schedule and date but what is agreed on is ... the more our forces and security organs are capable to control the security situation, the more the need lessens for the presence of the multinational forces."