Shoe Thrower Asks Al-Maliki For Pardon

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BAGHDAD - The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush is begging for a pardon for what he described as "an ugly act," the prime minister's spokesman said Thursday.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for an Iraqi-owned television station based in Cairo, Egypt, could face two years imprisonment for insulting a foreign leader. He remained in custody Thursday night.

"It is too late to reverse the big and ugly act that I perpetrated," al-Zeidi wrote in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to the prime minister's spokesman.

The spokesman, Yassin Majid, told The Associated Press that al-Zeidi went on in the letter to recall an interview he conducted with the prime minister in 2005 when al-Maliki invited him into his home, saying: "Come in, it is your home too."

"So I ask for your pardon, excellency," Majid quoted the letter as saying.

However, the journalist's brother, Dhargham al-Zeidi, told the AP he was skeptical that his brother would write such a letter.

"I am suspicious that my brother wrote that letter to al-Maliki because I know my brother very well," he said. He added that family members and staffers from Al-Baghdadia would stage a sit-in Friday near the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday that she'd seen reports that al-Zeidi had apologized but that she did not know whether Bush was aware of them.

"The president harbors no hard feelings about it, and the Iraqis have a process that they'll follow," Perino said. "But he did urge them not to overreact, because he was not bothered by the incident, although it's not appropriate for people to throw shoes at a press conference, at any leader."

Perino suffered a bruised eye in the melee that followed the attack.

"What happened to me was just an accident in the melee. It's not - I'm not bothered by it. It's not all that pretty," she said referring to her bruise, "but I'm not worried about it."

Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the Sunday night incident, which occurred during a news conference by Bush and al-Maliki.

The case has riveted Iraq, with many Iraqis considering him a hero for defying a president they blame for destroying the country.

A shouting match Wednesday between parliament members for and against al-Zeidi prompted the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, to announce he was resigning.

Al-Mashhadani showed up at parliament on Thursday to resume his speaker duties. But so many lawmakers boycotted in protest of al-Mashhadani's outburst that the session was canceled.

Al-Zeidi's action was broadcast repeatedly on television stations worldwide. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack suggested that incident was overblown.

The president harbors no hard feelings about it, and the Iraqis have a process that they'll follow.

Dana Perino, White House press secretary"We would hope that the fact of a U.S. president standing next to a freely elected prime minister of Iraq who just happens to be Shia, who is governing in a multi-confessional, multiethnic democracy in the heart of the Middle East, is not overshadowed by one incident like this," McCormack told reporters in Washington.