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Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera Chief, Resigns

Wadah Khanfar

First Posted: 09/20/11 12:09 PM ET Updated: 11/20/11 05:12 AM ET

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press

CAIRO -- The Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel has announced Tuesday that its director has stepped down after serving the network for eight years.

Wadah Khanfar's resignation follows release of documents by Wikileaks, purporting to show he had close ties with the U.S. and agreed to remove some content in response to American objections.

The leaked 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable indicated that Khanfar was in constant contact with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, responding to U.S. complaints of negative coverage and promising to tone down items on the station's website. The cables referred to Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs as "MFA" which passed him some of the DIA reports.

Al-Jazeera said in a statement that Khanfar expressed his desire to resign in July, and that his replacement was arranged one month ago to "to ensure a smooth transition." The statement did not refer to the leaked cable.

The cable, written by the U.S. embassy in Doha, said the website piece, "Live Testimony Concerning Tal Afar," showed 10 witnesses giving their accounts of U.S. military operations in Iraq.

Khanfar, according to the cable, "had taken a look at the piece and had two images removed (two injured children in hospital beds and a women with serious facial injury)."

Khanfar also referred to "a non-paper" agreement between the station and U.S. government, in his criticism of another August report by DIA pointing to a "violation to the station's agreement." Khanfar responded by saying "as a news organization, we can't sign agreements of this nature, and to have it here like this in writing is of concern to us."

On his Twitter account, Khanfar justified his resignation as prompted by the network needs for "renewal and change," and commented on several tweets linking his resignation to the leaked U.S. embassy cables, by saying, "(I am) entertained by all the rumors of why I have resigned."

The cable's disclosure of the Qatari-based network's cooperation with the U.S. government is a stark contrast with Al-Jazeera's reputation as a harsh critic of U.S. policies.

At the same time, the United States shown little openness to the network, and Al-Jazeera's English language service has limited access to American viewers.

The Qatar-funded station praised Khanfar for "outstanding contributions" and named his successor, Sheik Ahmad bin Jasem bin Muhammad Al-Thani, a Qatari businessman and member of the royal family.


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Filed by Jack Mirkinson  |