Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bush wanted to bomb Arab ally Qatar

London, 22 Nov. (AKI) - A "Top Secret" document from the British prime minister's office shows that US president George W. Bush planned to bomb the satellite TV station Al Jazeera, despite it being owned by the Qatari government, a key US ally.

The British newspaper The Mirror revealed details of the leaked memo, and said Bush was talked out of the plan by British premier Tony Blair, who said such an action would cause "a worldwide backlash".

While the newspaper reported one government official as dismissing the president's suggestion as "humorous, not serious", another source told the paper: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."The information came from a five page transcript of a conversation between the two leaders during talks in April last year, when Blair visited Bush in Washington.

The prime minister's office is now under pressure to publish the full transcript.

Former Labour Defence Minister Peter Kilfoyle told journalists: "It's frightening to think that such a powerful man as Bush can propose such cavalier actions. I hope the Prime Minister insists this memo be published. It gives an insight into the mindset of those who were the architects of war."

The memo turned up last year at the constituency office of Labour MP Tony Clarke, who handed it back to the prime minister's office. Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh has been accused under the Official Secrets Act of passing it to Leo O'Connor, who used to work for Clarke. Both men are due to appear in court next week.Al Jazeera has angered many governments with its coverage, particularly the Bush administration, which has accused the station of fuelling the insurgency in Iraq.

It has been criticised for its reports from behind rebel lines, as well as showing pictures of dead soldiers and civilians, and broadcasting video messages issued by Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders.

In 2001, the Al Jazeera's office in the Afghan capital Kabul was hit by two "smart" bombs.

Two years later, correspondent Tareq Ayyoub was killed when US missiles hit Al Jazeera's Baghdad office, and his colleague - former Kabul correspondent Taysir Allouni, who is currently appealing a seven year jail sentence in Spain after being found guilty of being a member of al-Qaeda - narrrowly escaped.


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