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Sanchez asks to be recused in abuse probe

From Mike Mount and Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau
A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner is shown at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq, in this undated photo.
Photos and a video clip showing Iraqi prisoner abuse.
Gallery: Abuse at Abu Ghraib prison (Contains graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.)

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has asked to be removed from any role in reviewing the results of an investigation into prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez requested that a higher-ranking general be appointed to assume that responsibility, the officials said.

Sanchez's request comes as a lower-ranking general, Maj. Gen. George Fay, is wrapping up his investigation of intelligence and interrogation practices in the U.S. military.

The report would normally go to Sanchez for review.

"Lt. General Sanchez's request clearly demonstrates his commitment to the truth, following appropriate regulations, and doing what's right to make sure that all evidence is considered," a Pentagon spokesman said.

Pentagon officials said Sanchez "has requested he be recused as appointing authority."

The officials also said that Sanchez's immediate superior officer, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, has requested that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld name a new appointing authority and investigating officer to receive Fay's report.

The request was made to "ensure a complete, thorough and transparent investigation that leaves no doubts as to the veracity of its findings," a Pentagon spokesman said.

Pentagon officials said the request was "under consideration" and that they are in the process of identifying a three-star or four-star general to oversee the investigation.

Sanchez has previously promised that the probe of prison abuse would go as far a necessary up the chain of command to ensure accountability at the very top, including his role.

"Regarding the events at Abu Ghraib, we must fully investigate and fix responsibility, as well as accountability," Sanchez said May 19 in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I am fully committed to thorough and impartial investigations that examine the role, commissions and omissions of the entire chain of command, and that includes me."

One U.S. Army reserve soldier who served as a guard at the prison has been court-martialed in the case and six others have been charged.

The abuse was documented in photographs showing naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners forced to assume humiliating positions as U.S. soldiers smiled beside them.

Other pictures showed the prisoners being threatened with dogs, and one image showed a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his outstretched arms.

The soldiers seen in the photographs said they were following orders to "soften up" the prisoners before interrogation.

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