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    Obama offers regrets, promises full probe

    KABUL (PAN): US President Barack Obama has apologised to the Afghan government and people over the alleged burning of the Quran by troops at the Bagram Airbase, the Presidential Palace in Kabul said on Thursday.

    "I wish to express my deep regrets for the reported incident. I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies," Obama wrote in a letter delivered to President Hamid Karzai.

    With violent protests against the blasphemous act snowballing across Afghanistan, a statement from Karzai’s office quoted the American leader as saying that the incident was inadvertent. 

    At least 17 people, including two US soldiers, have been killed in clashes between security forces and demonstrators during nationwide protests over the past two days. The American soldiers were killed in the Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province, officials said.

    The letter added: "The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible."

    Delivered by US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker, the letter said Obama had promised a thoroughgoing investigation into the matter, according to the statement.

    On Tuesday, the White House and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apologised to the people of Afghanistan for the alleged desecration in central Parwan province.

    “We apologise to the Afghan people and disapprove of such conduct in the strongest possible terms,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, when asked about the incident, resulting in an outrage in the country.

    Panetta offered his personal apology. “This morning ISAF Commander General John Allen notified me of the deeply unfortunate incident involving the inappropriate treatment of religious materials, including the Quran, at Bagram Airbase,” he said in a statement.

    Gen. Allen, ordering a probe, said: “When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities.”

    pr/mud