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Jazeera chief sacked for Saddam links

Doha, May 27 (AFP): The director-general of the controversial Arab satellite television al Jazeera has been sacked, Qatari sources said today amid allegations he worked with Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services.

Mohammed Jassem al-Ali had held the top job at the Doha-based station since it launched the Arabic-language channel in 1996. Al Jazeera and Ali have been accused by western media of collaborating with the former regime in Baghdad, which the ex-director general visited before the US-led war, meeting Saddam in an hour-long interview.

Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the American-backed Iraqi National Congress, has accused several al Jazeera journalists of working for Iraqi agencies based on documents found in state archives in Baghdad.

Ali, who has denied the charges, could not be contacted.

A replacement was expected to be announced shortly, Qatari sources said.

Al Jazeera enjoyed a special status in pre-war iraq, being allowed to work independently of the information ministry which strictly controlled foreign media.

Washington and London blasted al Jazeera after the netork carried footage from Iraqi television of dead coalition soldiers and prisoners of war, as well as repeated images of Iraqi civilians badly wounded in air strikes.

Saudi editor fired

Saudi Arabian authorities have fired the editor-in-chief of a leading reformist newspaper after an influential cleric issued a religious edict calling for a mass boycott of the daily, staff at the paper said today.

This followed a campaign launched by the Arabic-language al-Watan daily against the powerful religious leaders of the ultra-conservative kingdom, and was seen by many journalists as an indication of a power struggle between the strict Muslim establishment and reform-minded officials.

Saudi editors at al-Watan, which is owned by a member of the royal al-Saud family, said editor-in-chief Jamal Khashoggi had been sacked yesterday evening, hours after Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman al-Jibrin, a member of Saudi Arabia’s religious edicts body, issued his edict saying the paper had ridiculed “virtuous” people.

Khashoggi was not immediately available for a comment.

Al-Watan has recently published a series of damning articles against the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the so-called religious police in Saudi Arabia which enforces the kingdom’s austere brand of Islam.

Khashoggi is seen as a leading reformist voice in Saudi Arabia. He wrote several editorials condemning religious extremism after the suicide bombings that killed 34 people in Riyadh this month.

Like other media in Saudi Arabia, al-Watan follows strict government guidelines on its editorial content. It is owned by the son of Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Last year, Saudi authorities fired three editors of local newspapers, including one from al-Watan, for allegedly printing articles deemed as harmful to the kingdom.

This week, Interior Minister Prince Nayef met senior editors of several Saudi newspapers and urged them to avoid publishing news that he said was“damaging and misleading”. Saudi Arabian authorities have fired the editor-in-chief of a leading reformist newspaper after an influential cleric issued a religious edict calling for a mass boycott of the daily, staff at the paper said on Tuesday.

This followed a campaign launched by the Arabic-language al-Watan daily against the powerful religious leaders of the ultra-conservative kingdom, and was seen by many journalists as an indication of a power struggle between the strict Muslim establishment and reform-minded officials.

Saudi editors at al-Watan, which is owned by a member of the royal al-Saud family, said Editor-in-Chief Jamal Khashoggi had been sacked on Monday evening, hours after Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman al-Jibrin, a member of Saudi Arabia's religious edicts body, issued his edict saying the paper had ridiculed ”virtuous” people.

Khashoggi was not immediately available for a comment.

Al-Watan has recently published a series of damning articles against the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the so-called religious police in Saudi Arabia which enforces the kingdom's austere brand of Islam.

Khashoggi, who was recently appointed to al-Watan, is seen as a leading reformist voice in Saudi Arabia. He wrote several editorials condemning religious extremism after the suicide bombings that killed 34 people in Riyadh this month.

Like other media in Saudi Arabia, al-Watan follows strict government guidelines on its editorial content. It is owned by the son of Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Last year, Saudi authorities fired three editors of local newspapers, including one from al-Watan, for allegedly printing articles deemed as harmful to the kingdom.

This week, Interior Minister Prince Nayef met senior editors of several Saudi newspapers and urged them to avoid publishing news that he said was“damaging and misleading”.

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