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Rumsfeld:  Arab Language TV Networks May Be Cooperating With Anti-Coalition Forces in Iraq - 2003-11-25


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says there is evidence suggesting two popular Arabic-language television stations may be cooperating with anti-coalition forces in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld says employees of al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera have from time to time been in close proximity to terrorist attacks on coalition forces - sometimes appearing on the scene of incidents even before they happen.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld says it is not clear how that happens.

But in response to a question, he says there are "scraps of evidence" suggesting collusion between the television stations and the terrorists.

"Haven't U.S. troops in fact gathered up some pretty compelling evidence that either both or one of these organizations maybe cooperating with these terrorists," asked one reporter.

"The answer is yes," Secretary Rumsfeld said. "I have seen scraps of information over a sustained period of time that need to be looked at in a responsible, orderly way."

Still Mr. Rumsfeld declined to comment on the decision by Iraq's Governing Council this week to shut down the Baghdad bureau of al-Arabiya. He said he is not completely familiar with the Council's decision and its implications or stipulations.

Late Monday, Iraqi policeman, acting on the orders of the Governing Council and the Interior Minister, raided al-Arabiya's office and seized broadcast equipment.

The move followed the station's broadcast earlier this month of an audiotape purportedly containing the voice of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The tape called on Iraqis to wage war against coalition forces and Iraqis working with the coalition.

Al-Arabiya employees in Baghdad have expressed anger and disappointment over the decision to shut down the bureau.

Al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera are considered highly popular and influential in the Arab world. U.S. officials have been frequently critics of the stations' broadcasts.

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