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Correspondent: Al-Jazeera has no agenda

Al-Jazeera correspondent Omar Al Issawi: 'I can speak for myself personally, never, ever [having] any pressure from anyone.'
Al-Jazeera correspondent Omar Al Issawi: 'I can speak for myself personally, never, ever [having] any pressure from anyone.'

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(CNN) -- Reporters have been given unprecedented access to the U.S. and British military during the war in Iraq, but the practice of "embedding" correspondents has been criticized by some. The Pentagon has singled out the Arabic-language satellite television network Al-Jazeera in particular.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Omar Al Issawi, and Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to CNN's Larry King on Thursday about the Arab media's war coverage.

KING: Just to refresh the memory of our audience, Al-Jazeera was founded in 1996 by the emir of Qatar. It commanded worldwide attention when it aired a video of Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terror attacks. Although the United States military has criticized it, it's closely watched at Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Omar, from your vantage point there and as you see it from the vantage point of your network, what's your assessment as to how this war is going?

AL ISSAWI: Well, I think you get conflicting viewpoints regarding this war. There are people who want to see it move faster. There are people who are quite satisfied at the moment with the way it's going.

I think that we just have to see how events unfold, chapter by chapter, day by day.

KING: In your opinion, is it going the way you expected?

AL ISSAWI: Well, I'm not a military analyst, but I think that the hype that preceded the launch of this campaign -- the "shock and awe" campaign and the talk about a quick victory -- well, that hasn't happened, if quick was a few days' time. If it's a couple of weeks or three weeks' time, then people might still be proven wrong. We have to wait and see.

KING: How can you explain to the world, and we're being watched around the world, what is Al-Jazeera's role?

AL ISSAWI: Al-Jazeera is here to provide accurate news coverage to its viewers, just like any other network. We've got millions of viewers around the world who expect us to provide a service, [and be] balanced [and] accurate.

And we're trying our best to do that from our correspondents out in the field, be they in Iraq, in Washington, London, various European capitols, Beijing, Moscow and from here in Centcom base in Qatar.

KING: So the network does not have an agenda of any kind?

AL ISSAWI: Not that I'm aware of. We've been called many things in the past. We've been called agents of the CIA, the Israeli Mossad or bin Laden, Iraq. However, I've never been aware of [any agenda], and nobody's ever tried to influence us. I can speak for myself personally, never, ever [having] any pressure from anyone.

KING: General Shelton, how do you view Al-Jazeera? It wasn't around in 1991 [during the Persian Gulf War].

SHELTON: Larry, I would say first of all, one of the great things about the United States is that we do have so many freedoms, freedom of the press being one of them.

And certainly one of the services I think that Al-Jazeera does perform is that it does give us the balance of seeing, in some cases, what other people think about events as they unfold.

And so, you know, there have been things that Al-Jazeera has done that I find very distasteful, such as the showing of the films of the POWs in violation of the Geneva Convention.

But on the other hand, I think it helps sometimes to listen to the way the news is being reported by others around the world, and that gives you a perspective of how maybe the other side, maybe the Iraqis are viewing the actions of the United States.


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