Anti-American Syria-based TV channel closes

AP News
Posted: Dec 13, 2011 11:04 AM
Anti-American Syria-based TV channel closes

A Syria-based TV station that provided an outlet to late Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi and strongly criticized U.S. forces in Iraq has gone off the air, the owner said Tuesday, because of the American withdrawal from Iraq and improved Syrian-Iraqi relations.

Mishan al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi lawmaker and Damascus-based exile, said it was "no longer suitable" to have a Damascus-based channel run by Iraqi opposition figures and so he has closed Al-Rai TV.

Established in 2004, Al-Rai rose to prominence after broadcasting late night messages from Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi during the final days of his regime. Although al-Jabouri denies the channel had links to Gadhafi, he said he enjoyed good relations with the man who ruled Libya for more than 42 years as well as with his family.

The station gave the late Libyan leader a platform to air his views from hiding before he was captured by Libyan revolutionary forces and killed on Oct. 20.

Al-Jabouri has long touted himself as an Arab nationalist opposed to U.S. interventions in the Middle East and a supporter of Iraqi Sunni insurgents against American troops. But now, with the last U.S. soldiers to leave Iraq by the end of the month, al-Jabouri said there was no longer a need for the station, which went off the air Dec. 5.

"This page has been closed, thus resistance in Iraq should come to an end as a result," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Al-Jabouri said he also made his decision in light of the "positive development" in Syrian-Iraqi relations and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's recent stance in support of Damascus.

The Iraqi government was one of two countries that opposed sanctions imposed by the Arab League against Syria last month over Damascus' brutal crackdown on a nine-month uprising that the U.N. says has killed more than 5,000 people.

Asking about future plans for the station, al-Jabouri said he would be ready to grant it to Gadhafi's daughter, Aisha, to be a "voice for the Libyan opposition."

In an audio message broadcast on Al-Rai station from her exile in Algeria late last month, Aisha urged Libyans to overthrow their new rulers whom she said "arrived with the planes of NATO."

Al-Jabouri has a murky past. He fled to Syria in 2006, a year before an Iraqi court convicted him of embezzling millions of dollars. He and his son Yazan were accused of embezzling some $7 million a month intended for units of a special force created to protect oil pipelines from attacks by insurgents. Al-Jabouri has denied the charges, but he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.