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Ted Turner speaks out on Mideast conflict

Turner: "The violence in the Middle East has reached an intolerable level."  

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- CNN founder Ted Turner, reacting to criticism of his comments to a London newspaper about violence in the Middle East, said Tuesday he regretted "any implication that I believe the actions taken by Israel to protect its people are equal to terrorism."

"My comments were part of a long and extensive interview that I gave two months ago when I was condemning the loss of human life," said Turner, vice chairman of CNN's parent company, AOL Time Warner.

"The violence in the Middle East has reached an intolerable level, and in that interview I condemned that violence on whatever side it may come.

"But, I want to make it absolutely clear that my view was -- and is -- that there is a fundamental distinction between the acts of the Israeli government and the Palestinians," Turner said.

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"I believe the Israeli government has used excessive force to defend itself, but that is not the same as intentionally targeting and killing civilians with suicide bombers."

CNN issued a statement saying Turner "has no operational or editorial oversight of CNN" and was speaking for himself in the comments he made April 16 that were pubished Tuesday by The Guardian newspaper in London.

"Ted Turner's views are his own and they definitely do not reflect the views of CNN in any way," CNN's statement said.

In the Guardian article, Turner asked, "Aren't the Israelis and the Palestinians both terrorizing each other?

"The Palestinians are fighting with human suicide bombers, that's all they have," he was quoted as saying. "The Israelis ... they've got one of the most powerful military machines in the world. The Palestinians have nothing. So, who are the terrorists?

"I would make a case that both sides are involved in terrorism."

The newspaper article said Turner's comments "threaten to lead to a further decline in the news network's already poor relations with the Jewish state." It included criticism from Israeli government spokesmen and supporters.

Turner's comments drew fire from a prominent supporter of Israel in Washington.

"Ted Turner has been wrong about a lot of things before, but his twisted attempt to justify terrorism against Israel by establishing moral equivalence descends to new depths," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

"Turner's thoughts on the Middle East are the rant of a man with a defective moral compass."

In his statement, Turner said his main concern is a "peaceful and prompt resolution" of the conflict and that he is "pained by the loss of life on both sides."




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