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U.S. to beam Arabic-language channel to Europe

Government-funded Alhurra is meant to compete with Al-Jazeera

From Elaine Quijano and Hana Karar

United States
Middle East

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration is planning to expand the reach of its Arabic-language satellite channel, Alhurra, into Europe, an official overseeing the network said Sunday.

Alhurra, which means "the free one," began beaming programming to the Middle East about a year ago.

Home to an estimated 15 million-20 million Muslims, many of Arab descent, Europe is a "significant location for Arabic-speaking people," a U.S. official said.

Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. agency in charge of Alhurra, said Sunday that the channel's goal is to "foster and support debate" and to give Arabic speakers the chance to hear the "Western side of arguments on women's rights, economic opportunity and freedom and democracy."

Officials said Alhurra is intended to provide competition to the Arabic-language channel Al-Jazeera, which they contend is biased against the United States.

Tomlinson said $2 million for Alhurra's expansion would come from President Bush's $81 billion supplemental budget request for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Congress is expected to approve that supplemental budget request in the coming weeks.

Tomlinson said U.S. officials hope to begin beaming Alhurra programming into Europe this fall.

Just before the channel's launch last February, Bush said, "We are telling the people in the Middle East the truth about the values and the policies of the United States, and the truth always serves the cause of freedom."

"As long as that region is a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce men and movements that threaten the safety of Americans and our friends," he added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense also plans to add more sites on the Internet to provide information to a global audience. (Full story)

But some senior military officers told CNN the Web sites may clash with Bush's recent statements.

"We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda," Bush told reporters January 26. "Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet." (Full story)

Bush made those comments after it came to light that the administration had paid several commentators to support U.S. policies in the U.S. media.

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