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U.S. general rips reporting by Arab TV

Army Gen. John Abizaid denounced Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya for their reporting in Iraq, saying the two Arab television stations lied about American attacks in the city of Fallujah.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has accused two Arab television stations of lying about American attacks in the city of Fallujah.

Army Gen. John Abizaid denounced Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya for broadcasting what he said were false reports of American troops deliberately targeting civilians in Fallujah.

The predominantly Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad has been the site of fighting between insurgents and American troops after a mob mutilated the bodies of American security contractors killed in a March 30 ambush.

“They have not been truthful in their reporting,” Abizaid said of the two television stations. “They haven’t been accurate. And it is absolutely clear that American forces are doing their very best to protect civilians and at the same time get at the military targets there.”

Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said the TV station had also interviewed American officials “to be as balanced as possible.” The station had an early advantage because it was the only news organization present in Fallujah during the first days of the recent fighting, he said.

“I don’t think pictures lie. We have tried to be as comprehensive as possible,” Ballout said from the station’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Defending the network
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Al-Arabiya’s editor-in-chief Salah Negm said his station was doing its job properly despite working under difficult conditions.

“We know that Iraq is a free country and we are practicing the responsible freedom of the press that covers all sides of the story,” he said.

Anti-American protests erupted Friday in Cairo among crowds who supported the Fallujah insurgents. Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, sent relief supplies to the city, saying Fallujah was subject to “blockade, killing and destruction.”

About 600 Iraqi dead, mostly civilians, were recorded by the main hospital and four clinics in Fallujah, hospital director Rafie al-Issawi told The Associated Press. U.S. officials say most of the dead probably were insurgents.

A tenuous cease-fire declared by the Americans in Fallujah appeared to be holding Monday, said Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. ground troops in Iraq.