Karen Hughes misreports Iraqi history

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Bush administration envoy Karen Hughes visited Indonesia on Friday as part of her campaign to repair U.S. standing with the world's Muslims and defended the invasion of Iraq by telling skeptical students that deposed president Saddam Hussein had gassed hundreds of thousands of his own people.

State Department officials later acknowledged that Hughes, tapped by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to set the record straight on U.S. policies in the Muslim world, had misreported history.

Although at least 300,000 Iraqis are reported to have died during Hussein's 24 years in office, his government's use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds cost the lives of only a small proportion, most notoriously an estimated 5,000 people who died in a 1988 military campaign in the northern town of Halabja.

Hughes, who is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, made her remarks at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, south of Jakarta, one of several stops during her three-day visit to the world's most populous Muslim country. The students at the prestigious institution confronted her with emotional objections about the U.S. rationale for war in Iraq, similar to those she faced last month in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

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