WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) scolded Arab governments Sunday for not expressing more outrage over the videotaped beheading of an American civilian in Iraq. He also pledged action against American military prison guards and perhaps others responsible for prisoner abuses in Iraq that have drawn worldwide condemnation.
"People are disappointed in the United States," Powell said. He added, "Justice will be done."
Powell said he has made clear, specifically to Arab leaders, that systematic torture of prisoners is unacceptable anywhere. Yet, he said, their denunciation of the killing of Nicholas Berg (search), kidnapped while in Iraq seeking business for his Pennsylvania communication company, fell far short of their attacks on the United States for the treatment of detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison (search).
The beheading of the 26-year-old was broadcast on an Islamic militant Web site. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) was the masked person shown decapitating Berg with a large knife.
Powell, interviewed from Jordan, said he has told Arab leaders, "When you are outraged at what happened at the prison, you should be equally, doubly outraged at what happened to Mr. Berg."
On "Fox News Sunday," Powell said, "That is equal to any other act you've seen with respect to the need to condemn it, and to condemn it outright, and to condemn it publicly. And we need that same level of outrage and condemnation coming from the Arab world, just as it's coming from us."
The Islamic militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas issued strongly worded condemnations of the killing. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the first Arab governments to criticize the murder after an initial silence throughout the region about the videotape.
"Notwithstanding what people think about what we did at the prison, there can be no comparison to the actions of a few who are going to be punished and brought to justice as a result of what happened at Abu Ghraib," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"There is anger in the Arab world about some of our actions, but that is no excuse for any silence on the part of any Arab leader for this kind of murder," Powell said. "This kind of murder is unacceptable in anyone's religion, in anybody's political system that is a political system based on any kind of understanding and respect for human rights."
In its report on human rights around the world in 2003, Amnesty International said the countries in the Middle East and North Africa used widespread abusive tactics "in the name of `combating terrorism.'"
In addition, the report said, "The region continued to suffer from judicial and extrajudicial executions, widespread use of torture and unfair trials."
On Fox, Powell said: "Torture of any kind is unacceptable, and Arab leaders need to look at what's happening in their own societies. They need to reform their societies."
From his meetings with leaders at an economic summit in Jordan this weekend and last week with foreign ministers from the leading industrialized nations, Powell said he has found "a convergence between the Arab nations and the industrialized world, and all of us have to move forward down the path of reform."
In other remarks on Iraq, Powell said:
— He was confident the Iraqis who will take charge of governing the country on July 1 will support a continued U.S. presence to help provide security and financial assistance ahead of elections scheduled for January. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he favored elections before then. "They may be flawed, but the quicker we turn the turn government of the Iraqi people over to the Iraqi people, the more it will be then the insurgents versus the Iraqi government, rather the insurgents against us," he said.
— The United States would accept an Islamic government should Iraqis decide that is what they wanted. "Surely everybody understands it is a nation that rests on the faith of Islam," Powell said. "But they also know that in order to be successful as a 21st-century country, they have to respect the rights of all individuals and not allow a purely fundamentalist regime to arise in the country.