The U.S. military in Iraq has begun using a laser device mounted on soldiers' M-4 rifles to "dazzle" Iraqi drivers who fail to heed warnings to stop at checkpoints, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable said the laser device should not be called a weapon because it is not intended to injure.

CountryWatch: Iraq

"They are a warning device. They are intended to minimize unnecessary casualties," particularly among Iraqi civilians, Venable said.

The spokesman said he did not know how recently the military began using the devices. He said they are being used in limited numbers and have proven useful in avoiding incidents in which soldiers are compelled to use deadly force against vehicle drivers.

"The intent is to provide another non-lethal option as a warning device to troops as they come into contact with Iraqi civilians, primarily at checkpoints," Venable said. If used properly, the laser is not blinding, he said.

Use of the device, which Venable said was adapted from a laser used as a target designator, was first reported Thursday by the Los Angeles Times.