"There is no basis whatsoever to the reports regarding the alleged participation of Israeli investigators in the interrogation of prisoners and/or detainees in Iraq," a statement from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau said on Sunday. 

"These reports are emphatically denied," it added. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also dismissed the claims by Brigadier General Janis Karpinski as "completely baseless". 

"We are not involved in any way in Iraq. We are not involved in training or in interrogations, or in anything else. The whole claim is preposterous," he told army radio. 

The general's comments

Karpinski, who was suspended in May over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the facility just outside Baghdad had told BBC radio that she had met a man who said he was an Israeli interrogator at another US-run detention centre. 

"We are not involved in any way in Iraq. We are not involved in training or in interrogations, or in anything else. The whole claim is preposterous"

Silvan Shalom,
Israeli Foreign Minister

"I saw an individual there that I hadn't had the opportunity to meet before, and I asked him what did he do there, was he an interpreter? He was clearly from the Middle East," Karpinski said, according to the BBC web site. 

"He said, 'Well, I do some of the interrogation here. I speak Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel." 

Karpinski has been outspoken in defending her performance in Iraq, charging that she was being made a scapegoat for abuses carried out in a wing of Abu Ghraib under the control of military intelligence. 

While Israel was a firm supporter of the US-led invasion of Iraq, the government is aware that its presence there would be highly inflammatory. 

Taguba's report

A report by US Major General Antonio Taguba into the abuse at Abu Ghraib referred to the activities of two private American contractors at the prison - interrogator Steven Stefanowicz of CACI International and translator John Israel of Titan Corp. 

In his report, Taguba said he suspected that Stephanowicz and Israel were among those who were "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib." 

The Washington Post on Sunday quoted a top US military official as saying he believed Karpinski's claim of possible involvement by Israeli interrogators at Abu Ghraib was an "urban legend" derived in part by the fact that a contractor had the surname Israel. 

"Nothing I have seen indicates we had anyone but government contractors and uniformed soldiers there," the unidentified official told the Post.