Iran General NewsAl-Arabiya bureau chief says told to leave Iran

Al-Arabiya bureau chief says told to leave Iran

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ImageAFP: The head of the Tehran bureau of pan-Arab television station Al-Arabiya said on Tuesday that Iranian officials have demanded his departure from the country.

ImageTEHRAN (AFP) — The head of the Tehran bureau of pan-Arab television station Al-Arabiya said on Tuesday that Iranian officials have demanded his departure from the country.

"In a telephone call with the foreign press bureau of the Iranian culture ministry I was informed of my definitive exit from Iran," bureau chief Hassan al-Fahs told AFP.

"They told me the decision was taken due to the policies of the network and the work record of our Tehran bureau," he said, adding that he had not been informed about the fate of the bureau.

An official for the television expressed "condemnation and surprise" over the Iranian measure, in remarks broadcast by the channel on Tuesday evening.

Al-Arabiya "upholds professional standards and has always provided a balanced coverage of Iranian affairs," he said, adding that on such occasions the channel always invited Iranian officials to give their views.

Iranian state radio said that students from 10 universities had called for the closure of the offices of the Saudi-owned network, one of two leading pan-Arab satellite news channels which was launched five years ago in Dubai.

"This demand came after this network, which is linked with hardline Saudi movements, broadcast a a film insulting Imam (Ruhollah) Khomeini, the founder of Islamic revolution, and Shiite beliefs," the radio said.

A prominent Iranian MP had warned last month about the future of the network in the Islamic republic, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"If the Al-Arabiya network is to continue with its hostile stances against the people and the government of the Islamic republic, there is no need for its reporter to freely work in Iran," the head of parliament's foreign policy and national security committee, Alaeddin Borujerdi was quoted as saying.

"It is deplorable that the network has put denigration on its agenda instead of presenting a clear portrayal of the realities and positive events in the Islamic republic of Iran," he added.

In April 2005, the Iranian authorities shut down the bureau of rival pan-Arab satellite television Al-Jazeera amid accusations of stirring up violence in its coverage of clashes in southwestern oil city of Ahvaz, which has a substantial Arab minority. It reopened 14 months later.

In July this year, AFP's deputy bureau chief in Tehran, Stuart Williams, had to leave the country after being told by Iranian authorities that his visa would not be renewed.

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