Sen. Trent Lott (search) says saving American lives should be the priority in Iraq (search), even if it might mean dealing harshly with prisoners to get vital security information.

"We've seen the pictures. We don't approve of that," the Mississippi Republican said in an interview with Jackson television station WAPT. "(That) type of physical perversion is inappropriate."

"But interrogation is not a Sunday school meeting," he said. "This is a very tough situation. You have got to have sleep deprivation (search), you have got to scare them, you have got to threaten them."

Lott said there were situations in war when such interrogation tactics were necessary.

"Frankly, to save some American troops' lives, or a unit that could be in danger, I think you should get really rough with them," Lott said in the interview that aired Monday.

Asked by WAPT about a picture showing a security dog in close proximity to a prisoner, Lott said there was "nothing wrong with holding a dog up there unless the dog ate him."

Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the comments were taken from a much broader 20-minute interview about the situation in Iraq.

He said Lott "believes that interrogation has to be done under internationally recognized rules, and obviously what we all saw in those pictures was not that."

WAPT also noted during the interview that a prisoner had died at the Abu Ghraib prison (search), apparently after being questioned.

"This is interrogation, this is rough stuff," Lott said.

Youngblood said Lott did not condone the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

"For weeks now he has said that he is very troubled by what went on at Abu Ghraib. He was one of the first people to call for the prison to be demolished, which is exactly what they're going to do now," Youngblood said.

Lott lost his post as Senate majority leader in December 2002 after praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential run.