Kuwait government says "no going back" on decision to close Al Jazeera office

The Kuwait government says its decision to shut down the local office of the Qatar-based Arabic satellite television channel al-Jazeera was final.

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By  David Cass Published  November 11, 2002

The Kuwait govenment said on Monday its decision to shut down the local office of the Qatar-based Arabic satellite television channel al-Jazeera was final, but the move would have no impact on ties with Doha.

According to Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, "There is no going back on this decision." He insisted, however that he did not regard the often-criticised TV channel as representative of Qatar. "The decision is not against our brothers in Qatar, Jazeera represents itself," he said. "From that understanding we shut it down. Jazeera does not represent Qatar."

Jazeera is one of the most popular TV channels in the Arab world, but many Kuwaitis say its reports are biased towards Iraq, which invaded Kuwait in 1990 and occupied it for seven months.

For the Kuwaiti authorities, the last straw appears to have been the way Jazeera reported Kuwait's closure of about one-third of the country for US - led military exercises near the border with Iraq.

"Jazeera is good, and stands out," said Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah. "But it is not objective on Kuwaiti issues and Kuwait has the right to take this decision. Everyone knows that Jazeera is private sector and does not represent brotherly Qatar".

He accused the station of "incitement...and making Kuwait appear to play an incorrect role" -- an apparent reference to the US military presence in the oil-rich state. The US-led 1991 Gulf War ended the Iraqi occupation.

The channel is currently expanding its international output with the addition of a simultaneous translation service into English. It had been due to start in mid-September but is now expected to go on air, with separate soundtracks in Arabic and English, early in the New year.

Plans for a full English television channel have been put back, according to one executive to "the end of 2003 or early 2004 at the earliest."

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