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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 March, 2003, 09:48 GMT
Marine Idol 'could still fight'
Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell (left) is a judge on the series
US military officials have denied that a finalist on talent show American Idol who is in the Marines has been exempted from serving on the Iraqi war.

Josh Gracin, 22, was voted through by viewers on Wednesday to be part of the series' final nine contestants.

The programme, which aims to create a new pop star, is based on the British Pop Idol format.

Gracin is a lance corporal based at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, California.

He is living in the show's house in the Hollywood Hills with the other contestants, but is sticking to a strict training regime and keeping in touch with the Marines every day.

He is doing a really good job representing the Marine Corps
Capt Shawn Haney

Officals have given him "permissive status" to remain on the show, using his annual leave.

US Marine Corps spokeswoman Captain Shawn Haney said Gracin was on notice to be deployed at any time, just like any other Marine.

"Since day one, there has been no special exclusion made for him," she said.

"If his unit deploys, then he deploys with them. His section of the unit is not scheduled at this moment to go to war."

The show ends in May, when the winner will get a recording contract.

"We are still treating him like a Marine, he is just in a very unique situation," Captain Haney added.

"We consider he is doing a really good job representing the Marine Corps on the show."

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