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Durbin apologizes for Gitmo remarks

No. 2 Democrat says he intended no disrespect to U.S. troops

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Durbin: "I offer my apologies to those that were offended by my words."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate's No. 2 Democrat apologized Tuesday for remarks comparing the treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to methods used by the Nazis, Soviets and other repressive regimes.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said he "never intended any disrespect" to U.S. troops with his June 14 comments, for which the minority whip has endured a week of criticism from Republicans and some Democrats.

"In the end, I don't want anything in my public career to detract from my love for this country, my respect for those who serve it, and this great Senate," Durbin said in an emotional statement on the Senate floor.

"I offer my apologies to those that were offended by my words."

Human rights groups and the Red Cross have criticized the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a U.S. Navy base where prisoners from the war on terrorism have been held since early 2002. The facility currently houses about 520 prisoners. (Full story)

In the June 14 floor speech, Durbin read from an FBI agent's account of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay being shackled to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures for up to 24 hours at a stretch.

Prisoners in those conditions sometimes urinated or defecated on themselves, the agent reported.

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings," Durbin said.

The White House, which insists prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, called Durbin's remarks "reprehensible." (Full story)

Republicans quickly called for Durbin to apologize -- a call he rejected Friday, saying his statement was "misused and misunderstood." (Full story)

But Durbin said Tuesday he had erred by invoking the specter of the Holocaust, which he called "the greatest moral tragedy of our time."

"Nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy," Durbin said. "I'm also sorry if anything I said, in any way, cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military."

He said he would "continue to speak out on the issues that I think are important to the people of Illinois and to the nation."

Sen. John McCain -- who was a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War -- said Sunday that Durbin should apologize. (Full story)

But the Arizona Republican also said reports of controversial interrogation techniques and allegations of abuse could endanger American POWs in a future conflict.

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