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French Version

Al-Jazeera may hold off on English channel

The much-hyped launch of Arabic satellite television Al-Jazeera's English-language channel will be delayed until later this year, the group's director general said Thursday.

The start-up of Al-Jazeera International, which had been expected sometime in the northern spring, "has been delayed, probably to the summer ... for technical reasons," Al-Jazeera Satellite Network director general Waddah Khanfar told AFP.

The channel, which has changed the face of television news in the Arab world since it was founded in 1996, has faced relentless criticism from the United States over its broadcasting of footage and messages from militants.

Al-Jazeera International is due to transmit from four regional broadcast centers in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington with 250 journalists based in 30 countries.

Al-Jazeera International director Nigel Parsons said however that the English-language channel may still start broadcasting as planned.

"We might still be launching it in the spring. We don't know yet," he told AFP, adding that the network was waiting for technical installations to be completed.

"The delay - if there will be a delay - is technical," Par-sons added.

In November, British tabloid Daily Mirror, citing a top secret Downing Street memorandum, reported that U.S. President George W. Bush discussed bombing the Arabic-language channel but was dissuaded by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The White House has called the story "outlandish" despite strong indignation and protests from Al-Jazeera.

The Arabic channel often receives footage of hostages held in Iraq by Islamic militants and has become the almost exclusive conduit for audio and video messages from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

One of its reporters Taysir Alluni was sentenced to seven years in jail by a Spanish court last year for allegedly collaborating with Al-Qaeda.

He had obtained an interview with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden just weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States masterminded by the Saudi-born militant.

Beirut,03 27 2006
The Daily Star
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