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Tony Blair Was Urged to Bomb Al Jazeera
Former home secretary David Blunkett admits making suggestion to British prime minister
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2006-10-13 12:15 (KST)   
Ahmed Al-Sheikh, editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera's Arabic channel, has stated that he will ask for an official British statement on David Blunkett's claim that as home secretary he urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to bomb Al Jazeera's Baghdad television transmitter during the Iraq war.

The Daily Mirror has reported that David Blunkett will be shown on "Dispatches," a Channel 4 program to be broadcast on Oct. 16, admitting that he made this suggestion to the U.K. cabinet.

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In the program Blunkett is asked whether he considered Al Jazeera a civilian target. He replied:

"Well, I don't think that there are targets in a war that you can rule out because you don't actually have military personnel inside them if they are attempting to win a propaganda battle on behalf of your enemy."

Just two weeks after the home secretary urged the attack on Al Jazeera the Americans bombed the company셲 offices in Baghdad, killing journalist Tareq Ayoub.

Ahmed Al-Sheikh has said:

"This adds to the growing number of evidences that will one day prove that the attack on Al Jazeera was premeditated ... at the highest levels. Al Jazeera was being targeted at the time because the people who were waging war on Iraq didn't like what it was showing. We talk about terrorism, this is pure terrorism."

Al-Sheikh announced that Al Jazeera will be requesting a statement from the British government concerning Blunkett's claims.

When Blunkett was asked whether he thought his suggestion was against international law he fought back, saying:

"I don't think for a minute in previous wars we'd have thought twice about ensuring that a propaganda mechanism on the soil of the country you were invading would actually continue being able to propagandize against you."

In Blunkett's version of events policy of Iraq was decided on by Blair, and the cabinet had to be persuaded. Blunkett added that he knows John Prescott was not consulted even though he was deputy prime minister.

In the former home secretary's new book The Blunkett Tapes, published by Bloomsbury on Oct. 16, he quotes Blair as telling the cabinet on March 7, 2002. "Look, the management hasn't lost its marbles. We do know these things. We are not going to rush in." Blunkett commented "We all fear that they will."

Writing in The Guardian, Patrick Wintour and Julian Glover summarize one aspect of the book -- "Mr Blunkett likens Mr Blair's close relationship with George Bush to that of members of a joint cabinet, with collective cabinet responsibility."

However, Blunkett claimed that Blair did stand up to the president "in private," and then added: "You influence someone not by abusing them, but by persuading them. I do not think that in politics there is a betrayal in privately telling the U.S. the truth, and being supportive as it is possible to be, given the difficulties that causes you politically at home."

On Monday at the Old Bailey a hearing took place to confirm that parts of the trial under the Official Secrets Act about a leaked memo will be held in secret.

The Daily Mirror earlier reported that the memo is evidence of a conversation between Blair and Bush about bombing Al Jazeera. A source in the White House has described this as "outlandish."

The Official Secrets trial is now scheduled for April.

One effect of the memo being subject to legal proceedings is that some U.K. journalists seem reluctant to write about the court proceedings. A search on Google News at the time of writing showed that The Guardian was the only U.K. newspaper to report the hearing.

The Associated Press report was carried by a number of newspapers in the U.S.A. and Canada.

A Google News search shortly after the first Channel 4 program shows the only U.K. newspaper to follow the Mirror story was The Glasgow Daily Record and they are very closely linked anyway.

Other web coverage is from Al Jazeera and the Islamic Republic News Agency.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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