Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Al-Jazeera Hires Lawyers to Get Transcript

Yahoo! News
Al-Jazeera Hires Lawyers to Get Transcript

By MARIAM SAMI, Associated Press Writer

Al-Jazeera has hired a British law firm to press its request to British Prime Minister Tony Blair for a partial transcript of a conversation between him and U.S. President George W. Bush in which the American leader allegedly said the Arab broadcaster's headquarters should be bombed.

Yosri Fouda, an investigative reporter and acting Al-Jazeera bureau chief in London, told The Associated Press the network had hired Finers Stephens Innocent LLP in an "attempt to put pressure on the British government" to hand over part of the record of the conversation.

"We would like to know the truth," Fouda said in a telephone interview. The news channel, which is highly popular throughout the Middle East, wanted to "set the record straight" concerning the Bush-Blair conversation.

Fouda said the network was only asking for a transcription of "the ten lines" of the conversation that purportedly involved the Doha, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, conceding that Britain's desire to keep the rest of the conversation secret was understandable as a matter of state security.

News of Bush's alleged remarks during a White House meeting with Blair on April 16, 2004, were first reported by the British Daily Mirror tabloid in late November. The newspaper said the remarks were detailed in a leaked secret British government memo.

According to the newspaper, Blair argued against Bush's suggestion. On Monday a Blair spokeswoman said "in spite of various allegations the memo does not refer to the bombing of the Al-Jazeera TV station."

When it disclosed the alleged memo, the Daily Mirror reported that its sources disagreed on whether Bush was serious about the bombing comment.

At the time, White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the newspaper's claims "outlandish and inconceivable." Blair has said he had no information about any proposed U.S. action against Al-Jazeera, an answer Fouda said was insufficient to explain what was really said during the conversation.

Fouda said the law firm sent a request to Blair's secretary on Jan. 12 outlining the channel's demand and invoking the Freedom of Information Act. Blair's office has sent a confirmation of receipt.

On Jan. 10, a judge ordered two British men to stand trial on charges of leaking the memo.