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Rice rejects Amnesty report on detainees

Guantanamo calls are dismissed

SAN FRANCISCO -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has dismissed calls for an independent investigation of conditions at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and has labeled as ''absurd" a new Amnesty International report equating the facility with Soviet-era gulags.

''The United States is as open a society as you will find," Rice said, and the administration is being held accountable ''by a free press, by a Congress that is a separate and coequal branch of government, and by its own expectations of what is right."

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, a close Bush ally, has demanded an investigation of allegations that US interrogators abused the Koran at Guantanamo Bay.

The Pentagon is investigating five instances in which the Koran may have been mishandled, but officials say they have found no evidence to support the charge that US personnel flushed the holy book down a toilet.

Rice, a Soviet scholar, seemed particularly indignant at Amnesty International's calling Guantanamo Bay ''the gulag of our times," a reference to the prison camps under Josef Stalin.

While acknowledging in an interview Thursday that the human-rights group has done important work around the world, she said, ''I think it's absurd language."

''The United States of America is one of the strongest defenders of human rights around the world," Rice said. She added that personnel at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba have shown great respect for detainees' religion.

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