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Al-Jazeera Seeking Controversial Transcript
Tries Freedom of Information Act to obtain conversation between Bush and Blair
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-18 14:44 (KST)   
Acting for Al-Jazeera, London lawyers Finers Stephens Innocent LLP made a request under the Freedom of Information Act Jan. 12 for a transcript of the conversation between U.S. President George Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair in which the U.S. leader was reported to have discussed bombing the station's headquarters in Qatar.

Yosri Fouda, an investigative reporter and acting Al-Jazeera bureau chief in London, said the network was only asking for a transcription of "the ten lines" of the conversation that purportedly involved Al-Jazeera, conceding that Britain's desire to keep the rest of the conversation secret was understandable as a matter of state security.

Blair's spokesman said: "We will reply properly in terms of any request to us but it is not the practice and will not be the practice to release conversations between the prime minister and other world leaders.

"But what we can confirm is that the memo does not refer to bombing the Al-Jazeera station in Qatar, despite the various allegations. I'm not aware of any suggestion of bombing any Al-Jazeera station."

He declined to say what was contained in the memo. Downing Street will respond to the request within 21 days.

The memo is also at the center of another legal case under the Official Secrets Act following a report of the memo in The Daily Mirror. There may also be a third case involving Peter Kilfoyle MP.

Rob Merrick reported in the Liverpool Daily Post that Kilfoyle could face up to two years in jail after the paper alleges he admitted passing on "secret details" to Al Jazeera.

Kilfoyle is reported as saying, "I believed the document should be made public because it is a matter of national interest. It does not imperil anybody and it reveals the kind of person we are dealing with. I don't think I will be prosecuted. The government will be very foolish if it proceeds with these charges -- or brings new ones against me."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said he could not discuss Kilfoyle's comments while the prosecution of David Keogh and Leo O'Connor for leaking the memo was ongoing.

In a related story, writing for the American Conservative, Pat Buchanan has drawn attention to a Zogby survey of 3,900 Arabs which he says "has uncovered massive distrust of U.S. motives in the Middle East.

"While Arabs are not as rabidly anti-American as in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, still, by 77 percent to six percent, they believe the Iraqi people are worse off today, and by four-to-one, Arabs say the U.S. invasion has increased, not decreased, terrorism.

"Favorite news source? Sixty-five percent named Al-Jazeera either as their favorite or second favorite. What Fox News is to red-state America, Al-Jazeera is to the Arab street."

Even if the views expressed by Pat Buchanan are not widely shared, the survey, designed by Arab scholar Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution, demonstrates that Al-Jazeera has a significant audience and that there will be interest in the results from their request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Related Articles
Al Jazeera Leak Hearing to be Partly Secret
Tony Blair Was Urged to Bomb Al Jazeera
Blunkett Challenges Channel 4 Record


©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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