American soldiers under investigation again

A team of top Afghan officials is to investigate charges that U.S. soldiers burned the remains of Taliban fighters they had killed and then used the scene for propaganda purposes.

The four investigators were ordered by President Hamid Karzai to work "urgently" amid warnings that the alleged desecration could spark anti-American demonstrations, according to Defense Ministry spokesman.

Cremating bodies is banned by Islam, and Muslim clerics in Afghanistan reacted angrily after a video broadcast by Australian television last week purported to show American soldiers burning two dead Taliban fighters. No protests have occurred in Afghanistan, where the footage has not been shown.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also has called for a separate U.S. military investigation to be expedited.

In his first public comments about the matter, Rumsfeld told he was worried by publicity about the allegations, whatever their merit.

"The reality is that charges of that type are harmful," he said. "They don't represent the overwhelmingly positive behavior of the men and women in uniform who do such a wonderful job."

"It's always disappointing when there are charges like that," he added. "It's particularly disappointing when they're true. That needs to be determined, but one hates to see the adverse effect of it, if it is true", The USA Today quoted Donald Rumsfeld as saying.