22 May 2003
The United States has angrily rebuked the Arab satellite TV network al-Jazeera for broadcasting a taped message, purportedly by senior al-Qaida terrorist figure Ayman al-Zawahri, urging Muslims to carry out attacks against Westerners. Secretary of State Colin Powell says he protested to the foreign minister of Qatar, al-Jazeera's host government.
Officials here say al-Jazeera's broadcast of the audio tape, which was full of threats against the United States, its Iraq war allies and moderate Arab states, was irresponsible journalism and particularly unwelcome at a time of heightened alert against terror attacks.
In a talk with reporters after a meeting with the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he personally complained about the broadcast to his counterpart from Qatar.
Mr. Powell said there is no way to confirm the authenticity of the tape but that either way, it can only inflame the current situation.
"All it does is highten tension throughout the region allowing terrorists to have this kind of access to the airway," he said. "I spoke to the Qatari foreign minister about it earlier today. I think they are taking some action but it's too late. The information is already out there on that tape. Do we know if it is an accurate tape? Is it not accurate? Who knows? But in any event it is heightening tension throughout the world, and it spreads more hatred throughout the world, and I wish they had made a different editorial judgement about it."
The voice heard on the tape urged Muslims to follow the example of the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror strikes in New York and Washington, and attack embassies and other interests of the United States and its allies in the Iraq war, including Arab states that gave logistical support to the operation.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the tape a "hateful diatribe" and said U.S. officials had also raised concerns about it directly with top officials of al-Jazeera.
The satellite network did not disclose how it had acquired the tape, but an al-Jazeera editor said only the most significant and newsworthy parts of it had been aired.