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U.S. to name Hezbollah TV a terrorist organization

State Department
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The State Department plans to designate Hezbollah's television station, Al-Manar, as a terrorist organization for broadcasting incitement, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.

The designation could come later this week, the official said.

Hezbollah is a Lebanon-based group linked to the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 servicemen. It is already designated a terrorist organization by the United States. (Full story)

Al-Manar, which was licensed by the Lebanese government in 1997, has come under renewed scrutiny amid claims that the organization is inciting terrorism and has made outrageous claims against Israel and other nations.

In one recent broadcast, according to The New York Times, Al-Manar claimed Israel spread the AIDS virus and other diseases throughout the Arab world.

The station, which can be seen in the United States via satellite, has also shown images of a skeletal Statue of Liberty dripping blood and pictures of Adolf Hitler and his forces juxtaposed with President Bush and American troops.

The station's Web site says: "Al-Manar is the first Arab establishment to stage an effective psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy."

Terrorism expert Avi Jorisch, author of the recently published "Beacon of Hatred," which took a critical look at the television station, has a different view.

"Al-Manar makes Al-Jazeera look like a Girl Scout cookie infomercial," said Jorisch, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based nonpartisan anti-terrorism organization.

Al-Jazeera is an Arabic-language satellite television channel based in Qatar.

A top official at Al-Manar admitted that the network shares philosophical agreements with Hezbollah, but denied that it takes its marching orders from the group.

"George W. Bush says that he's a friend of peace and he is a peaceful man," said Ibrahim Mousawi, director of Al-Manar's political programs. "This is distorting the realities and the facts. But we never broadcast anything to incite hatred."

Earlier Wednesday, Al-Manar was ordered off the air in France a day after the country's highest administrative body banned Al-Manar's satellite broadcasts.

Getting Al-Manar off the air in the United States has been more complicated.

The Federal Communications Commission has said the agency cannot do anything about Al-Manar because it is broadcast via satellite and it is not an American network.

But if the State Department designates the network a terrorist organization, as expected, the move would essentially knock Al-Manar off the air in the United States -- because companies such as satellite wholesale operators that continued to broadcast the network could face heavy fines or prosecution.

CNN's Brian Todd contributed to this report.

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