Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 08:16 GMT

US sorry for bomb graffiti

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The US is embarrassed by the ''thoughtless graffiti''

The United States has condemned a sarcastic message about the Holy month of Ramadan scrawled on a bomb destined for Iraq.

The offending inscription read: "Here's a Ramadan present from Chad Rickenberg."

It was scribbled by a sailor on a 907-kilo laser-guided bomb waiting to be loaded onto a fighter jet on board the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

Washington is already facing tough criticism from Arab countries for launching the attacks just before Ramadan which began at the weekend.

The Defence Department said it was distressed by the ''thoughtless graffiti'' which did not reflect American views.

'No place for religious intolerance'

Defence Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the US deeply respected Islam.

"Religious intolerance is anathema to Defence Secretary William Cohen and to all Americans who cherish the right to worship freely,'' he added.

"We are grateful for our good relations with Arab and Islamic peoples, and we appreciate the important contributions of Muslim Americans."

But Mr Bacon made no mention of any kind of investigation into who was responsible or any disciplinary action.

The Pentagon did not say whether the bomb, photographed by the Associated Press news agency, had been fired.

US tried to avoid Ramadan

President Bill Clinton said the US had deliberately avoided starting the air assault against Iraq during the month of Ramadan because this would have been offensive to Muslims worldwide.

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, sex, and listening to music from sunrise until sunset.

The US and Britain launched the raids on Wednesday after UN weapons inspectors accused Baghdad of blocking their efforts to find and destroy its chemical, nuclear and biological weapons.

Mr Clinton called off air strikes against Iraq on Saturday, saying US and British forces had inflicted significant damage during the attack and remained ready to strike again if need be.

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