New website offers French angle to Iraq war

French Foreign Affairs Ministry sets up special Iraq online bulletin board to offer alternative war coverage.

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By  John Irish Published  April 6, 2003

With US authorities labelling Arab satellite channels as irresponsible and Arabs becoming increasingly sceptical of Western broadcasters, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs unveiled on March 25 a website to cover the war in Iraq.

This latest venture, http://special.diplomatie.fr, aims to highlight the French position on Iraq and provide up-to-the-minute developments, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“French authorities are profoundly preoccupied with the military operations that are being engaged in Iraq,” said François Rivasseau, an official foreign ministry spokesman.

“They [French authorities] hope that everything will be done so that [Iraq’s] civilian populations will be spared additional hardships.”

In a separate development, French satellite and cable service, Canalsatellite has offered subscribers free access to the controversial Arab satellite news network, Al Jazeera.

Since the outbreak of war, US and British authorities have heavily criticised the Qatari-based channel for showing images of captured and dead coalition soldiers.

The channel’s online operations came to a dramatic halt last week, after pro-American supporters hacked into the Al Jazeera web site depositing pro-US slogans.

Despite this, the network’s popularity among Arab viewers has led to the channel establishing a text messaging service to provide its latest news coverage.

The service, which is in English and Arabic, is available worldwide on a subscription basis.

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