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

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

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

Majid said Zeidi went on in the letter to recall a 2005 interview he conducted with the prime minister when Maliki invited Zeidi into his home, saying: "Come in, it is your home too."

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

The journalist's brother, Dhargham al-Zeidi, told the AP that he was skeptical his brother would write such a letter, "because I know my brother very well. He said family members and staffers from Al-Baghdadia would stage a sit-in today near the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said yesterday that she had seen reports that Zeidi had apologized but 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. "I'm not bothered by it. It's not all that pretty," she said of her bruise, "but I'm not worried about it."

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

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Zeidi would be tried for "insult to a foreign leader, attempted assault."

Zebari said it was unlikely Zeidi would be released without being sentenced.

If the incident had happened during Saddam Hussein's rule, he said, Zeidi "would have been shot on the spot."