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Al Jazeera enters West with BBC tie-up

London, Jan. 17 (Reuters): Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite television channel that has broadcast statements from Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida network, has extended its reach into the West after signing an agreement with the BBC.

A spokesman for the state-owned British broadcaster, said the deal granted both stations reciprocal access to news material. Independent al Jazeera — based in the tiny Gulf Arab state of Qatar — began broadcasting in 1996, bringing scrutiny to governments in West Asia where many of the region’s news outlets are under some form of official control.

The channel gained global prominence after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 when it broadcast footage and statements from bin Laden and al Qaida, which Washington blames for the attacks.

Last month, the Arab channel announced it would launch an English-language website in February. At the time, a spokeswoman said the site would be the first leg in the station’s English language plans that could ultimately include an English-language television channel.

Madhav Chinnappa, deputy head of rights at BBC News, said discussions were under way about the possible provision of documentaries through BBC Worldwide and online advice for al Jazeera’s English-language website.

“I think that if al Jazeera had been there 15 years ago, there would have been no September 11,” said marketing director, Ali Mohammad Kamal, three months ago. If it is still in business 15 years from now, there will be a lot fewer dictatorships and absolute monarchies in the Arab world.

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