Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday that the United States was not considering shutting the Guantanamo jail as suggested by a senior Senate Democrat.

Whitman also declined to express regret over the five incidents of what the Southern Command inquiry labelled mishandling the Quran, although he added: "Any time that our personnel do something that either violates our policy or procedures is unfortunate."

Abuse

US Southern Command disclosed late on Friday that US guards or interrogators kicked the Islamic holy book at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, stepped on it and soaked it in water, and in one case a guard's urine splashed through an air vent on to a prisoner and his Quran.

About 520 non-US citizens are
held in Guantanamo Bay prison

Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Sunday called Guantanamo and other US detention facilities "the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world".

"I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners. Those that we have reason to keep, keep. And those we don't, let go," Biden said.

Rejection  

But Whitman said: "Guantanamo serves a vital purpose in many ways." He said some prisoners are "very, very, very dangerous people".

"They want to do harm not only to Americans but to US interests overseas, to our friends and allies. And these are people that if released, would certainly be found back on the battlefield in the war on terror," Whitman said.

The Pentagon opened the prison in January 2002. It holds about 520 non-US citizens, most caught in Afghanistan.