Britain Denies Plan to Bomb Al-Jazeera
London (CNSNews.com) - The British government has denied that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair ever discussed bombing the headquarters of Arabic television channel al-Jazeera.
The statement came from Blair's official spokesman last night in response to a request from the broadcaster under Britain's Freedom of Information Act.
A British newspaper, the Daily Mirror, reported last year that during an April 2004 meeting between the two leaders, Bush proposed bombing al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar. The paper said Blair persuaded him not to pursue the plan.
Blair's spokesman told reporters that the details of the conversation would not be released, but denied any talk of attacks on media outlets.
" 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,"" Blair's spokesman said.
" But what we can confirm is that the memo does not refer to bombing the al-Jazeera station in Qatar, despite the various allegations,"" he said.
Blair's Downing Street office will officially respond to the Freedom of Information request within four weeks, the spokesman said.
The Daily Mirror report cited a memo detailing the conversation between Bush and Blair. Next week, two government employees will go on trial for allegedly breaking Britain's Official Secrets Act by leaking the memo. The story has been backed up by one former and one sitting member of Parliament, both members of Blair's Labor Party.
Current Member of Parliament Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister who was strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, has said publicly that he gave details of the memo to a Democratic Party activist in California in October 2004, hoping that those details would be used to influence the U.S. presidential election the following month. However, the details were not released until the Daily Mirror story was published.
Other newspapers have been warned by Britain's Attorney General that they face prosecution if they reveal further information about the contents of the memo.
Tuesday's denial was the first official comment by the British government on the Daily Mirror report. In November, White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the story " outlandish and inconceivable.""
Al-Jazeera's Kabul bureau was hit by coalition bombs in 2001, and its Baghdad bureau was hit in 2003, in a strike that killed one reporter. U.S. officials said both bombings were accidents and have denied deliberately targeting the station.
Al-Jazeera's legal representatives in London declined to comment on the Downing Street statement on Wednesday.
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