WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Interim Iraqi President Ghazi Yawar on Sunday said he had no plans to destroy the Abu Ghraib prison despite an offer by President Bush to tear down the jail where U.S. troops abused inmates.
Asked if he would tear down the prison, Yawar told ABC's "This Week," "No. Why? It's a prison that we spent more than $100 million building."
He acknowledged the prison was a symbol of the repressive regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but said it would be unwise and reactionary to destroy all such symbols, given the high cost of rebuilding Iraq.
"We need every single dollar we have in order to rebuild our country instead of demolishing and rebuilding," he said.
Bush last month said the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad would be torn down, if the Iraqi government approved, and the United States would fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison.
Photographs and videotapes of American soldiers sexually and physically abusing and humiliating Iraqi inmates at the prison have seriously undermined U.S. efforts in Iraq.
The Pentagon last week said it would widen a probe into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners to include actions of the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld requested that autopsies be conducted when detainees die.
Yawar said the new Iraqi government would assume control over the Abu Ghraib prison when the United States hands over power on June 30. "We have to start taking care of all our entities," he said.