Speaking to the US-backed al-Hurra network on Wednesday, Bush acknowledged numerous photographs had had a "terrible" impact on efforts to win over the Middle East.

However, immediate reaction suggested the president failed to convince many of his Arab viewers.

Scepticism was already rife after US occupation authorities in Baghdad confirmed that only 10 prison guards had been suspended and only half are likely to face criminal charges.

"This is not going to wash with the Arab audience," said Jawad al-Anani, former Jordanian foreign minister. "It's a good gesture but he should have publicly apologised."
       
Middle East expert Patrick Seale agreed, saying Bush's address was "totally unconvincing and ineffective".

He said Bush's speech was merely an attempt to limit the damage the abuse scandal inflicted on US policy that advocates democracy and freedom to the world.