A preliminary hearing to determine whether the US soldier, Lyndie England, should be court martialled over the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has been suspended.

The military judge at the hearing in Fort Bragg north Carolina is considering requests from Private England's lawyers to call up to 50 witnesses including Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Private England faces 19 charges of prisoner abuse, committing indecent acts and disobeying orders.