Berg's father says Bush and Rumsfeld to blame for death

The father of the American businessman who was beheaded in Iraq directly blamed President George Bush and his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, yesterday for the death of his son.

He made his opposition to the invasion of Iraq clear by planting an anti-war poster in the front lawn of his home.

Michael Berg told the local radio station KYW-AM: "My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this." Nick Berg, 26, was beheaded by extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Iraq who posted a video recording of his execution on to the internet. They claimed the telecommunications engineer wa killed in revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad by US troops.

Mr Berg's family have demanded an investigation into what happened to their son after he travelled to Iraqi to seek contracts. The family say that he was taken into US custody where he was questioned by FBI officials before being released. The authorities in Baghdad say he was not in US custody but that he was questioned by the FBI while being held by Iraqi police, who arrested him after spotting an Israeli visa in his passport. Mr Berg, who was Jewish, had travelled to Israel on his way to Iraq.

Mr Berg Snrtold reporters he could prove his son was in US military custody and possessed an e-mail statement from a State Department spokeswoman to that effect. He said that a delay in releasing his son contributed to his death. "The Iraqi police do not tell the FBI what to do. The FBI tells the Iraqi police what to do," he added. "Who do they think they're kidding?"

The e-mail was from Beth Payne, a US consular officer. "I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the US military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up ... one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly," she wrote.

In Mosul, the police chief, Maj General Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi, insisted his department had never arrested Mr Berg and maintained he had no knowledge of the case.

A US official in Washington was reported as saying that Mr Berg was detained by Iraqi authorities "for his own protection" because his behaviour in Mosul seemed unusual for a Westerner and that he was travelling without an escort. The official claimed Mr Berg was carrying texts that were "anti-Semitic" in tone. The official did not elaborate. The CIA said yesterday that the al-Qa'ida activist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the person shown on a video beheading Mr Berg.

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