Mariam Sami / Associated Press – 2006-01-22 08:17:22
CAIRO, Egypt (January 17, 2006) — Al-Jazeera has hired a British law firm to request a partial transcript of a conversation in which US President George W. Bush allegedly told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the Arab broadcaster’s headquarters should be bombed.
Yosri Fouda, acting Al-Jazeera bureau chief in London, told The Associated Press the network had hired Finers Stephens Innocent LLP in an “attempt to put pressure on the British government” to hand over part of the record of the conversation between Bush and Blair.
“We would like to know the truth,” Fouda said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Fouda said the Doha, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera was only asking Blair for a transcript of “the 10 lines” of the conversation that purportedly involved the network, which is highly popular throughout the Middle East. He acknowledged that Britain’s desire to keep the rest of the conversation secret was understandable as a matter of state security.
Blair’s spokesman said the prime minister’s office would reply to the freedom of information request within 20 working days, Press Association reported Tuesday. The spokesman said details of private conversations between Blair and Bush or “any other world leaders” would not be disclosed.
“But what we can confirm is that the memo doesn’t refer to bombing the Al-Jazeera television station in Qatar” or any other place, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity according to government policy.
Fouda said the law firm made the request Jauary 12.
News of Bush’s alleged remarks during a White House meeting with Blair on April 16, 2004, were first reported by the British Daily Mirror tabloid in late November. The newspaper said the remarks were detailed in a leaked secret British government memo.
According to the newspaper, Blair argued against Bush’s suggestion.
The Daily Mirror reported that its sources disagreed on whether Bush was serious about the bombing comment.
At the time, White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the newspaper’s claims “outlandish and inconceivable.”
On Jan. 10, a judge ordered two British men to stand trial on charges of leaking the memo.
In April 2003, the United States bombed Al-Jazeera’s Baghdad offices, killing one of its journalists. U.S. officials have said that bombing was a mistake.
© The Canadian Press, 2006
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