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Freedom of speech!

Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV is an independent commercial Arabic-language satellite TV station, well regarded for presenting a far wider range of views and perspectives than any other broadcast news in the region but US standards of ‘freedom’ do not apply there...

Washington (CNN): The Bush administration is pressuring Qatar to restrain the al-Jazeera cable TV network, which the US believes is ‘unbalanced’ and encourages ‘anti-American’ sentiment in the Middle East, the State Department said. Secretary of State Colin Powell met on 3 October the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose government currently holds the presidency of the Organization of Islamic Countries.

The Bush administration wants Qatar to use its influence with the cable network, which is based in Qatar and is considered the most widely watched in the Arab world, officials said.

Officials said the station continues to run an old television interview with Osama bin Laden and has invited anti-American guests who have argued that US foreign policy was to blame for the September 11 terrorist attacks. Further, they questioned the accuracy of al-Jazeera's reports, citing broadcasts that said U.S. Special Operations forces were captured in Afghanistan, which the United States denied.

"We had a frank exchange," one senior State Department official told CNN about Powell's meeting with the Emir. "There should have been no mistake of where we are coming from." The official said the Emir was "defensive" about the issue and countered that while his government was aware of U.S. sensitivities on the issue, it did not feel al-Jazeera was any more inflammatory than any other Arab media outlet. "He said he would take it as a piece of advice," the official said, noting that the inflammatory broadcasts have toned down a bit in the few days preceding the Emir's visit, but that Washington was looking for continued calm.

State Department officials told CNN that U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Maureen Quinn lodged a formal U.S. protest, to Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani about the broadcasts.

The Emir confirmed that the Bush administration asked his government to use its influence on al-Jazeera. "This is true. We heard from the U.S. administration, and also from the previous U.S. administration," he said. "Naturally we take these things as a kind of advice." 

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