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USA: Dollars Out for Mid-East TV

BBC News
July 17th, 2003

The US House of Representatives has approved funds for the creation of a radio and television network in the Middle East aimed at promoting American views.

"This new network will... greatly contribute to an enhancement of our efforts to combat the misinformation and propaganda that contribute to the rising anti-American sentiment in the region," said House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde.

It is just one project among many in a foreign aid bill which will be worth a total of $30bn if it clears Congress's upper chamber, the Senate, where a call to include aid to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is causing friction.

The bill passed by the lower chamber on Wednesday by 382 votes to 42 dropped a provision for aid to UNFPA, which the Bush administration sees as supporting abortion.

Funds for the new media network will come out of $1.3bn allocated to international broadcasting.

Correspondents say the network is seen as Washington's response to the popular Qatar-based Arabic television news station al-Jazeera.

Congressional officials said the new network would be on the air 24 hours a day, delivering a mix of news and entertainment.

Other foreign aid approved in the bill includes:

  • More than $1.4bn for fighting Aids worldwide

  • About $2.7bn in military and economic aid to Israel

  • Nearly $1.9bn in aid to Egypt and $456m in aid to Jordan

Punishing women

Democratic Congressman Joseph Crowley had inserted a provision in the bill earmarking $50m for UNFPA which is involved in more than 140 countries.

But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives struck out the provision, as the White House threatened a veto.

"The Republicans have declared a war on women," Mr Crowley said afterwards.

"This is a failure to the crucial need of improving the health of women and their families and to addressing rapid population growth."

However, the Senate -- where the Republicans can barely muster a majority -- backed the funding for the UN Population Fund last week and it is by no means certain it will approve the amended bill.





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