Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday that US commanders should do a better job in preparing their soldiers and said he would raise the issue of US military behaviour with American officials.

"There needs to be a plan to educate and train soldiers, and those who are brought to serve in Iraq shouldn't bear prejudices nor be reckless towards people's honour," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki also repeated his demand for an independent investigation into the murder of family of four in March in Mahmoudiya. One girl was also raped and a group of soldiers are already being investigated by the US military for their role.

"The Mahmudiya incident and other incidents before that ... produce sadness, pain and condemnation from Iraqis," he said.

Not immune

The prime minister is under pressure from both Shias and Sunnis to hold Americans accountable, and he has openly opposed a US occupation authority decree that grants immunity from Iraqi law for the 140,000 or so foreign troops in Iraq, saying it "emboldens" soldiers.

"I think this matter has become necessary to review and solve, either by reviewing the issue of immunity or reviewing the nature of the investigating committees," he told reporters in Baghdad.

"Those who are brought to serve in Iraq shouldn't bear prejudices nor be reckless towards people's honour"

Nouri al-Maliki

The rape and murder case in Mahmudiya is the fifth high-profile US inquiry into killings of Iraqi civilians in recent months and has outraged Iraqis.

American commanders, for their part, are eager to improve the military's image after three years of complaints from Iraqis that abuses by US forces go unpunished.

Last month alone they pressed murder charges against 12 military personnel and marines are already under investigation for the killing of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.

Culturally unaware

Iraqis have complained of Americans' repeated cultural insensitivities, which include searching women's rooms during raids or not taking their boots off when entering.

Commanders say they are improving such procedures.

Also on Thursday, al-Maliki announced that the government has banned all political activity in Iraq’s universities to try to defuse tensions between Shia and Sunni students and lecturers.

"We decided unanimously in cabinet to ban all political activities inside universities," al-Maliki told a news conference.
 

He said students must focus on education and leave politics to the politicians.