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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Al-Jazeera plans English channel
Osama Bin Laden
Al-Jazeera sprang to fame after airing exclusive Bin Laden footage
Arab satellite television station al-Jazeera plans to launch an English-language news channel by the end of 2005, according to a station official.

Project manager Nigel Parsons said the aim is to fill a "gap in the market" and counteract "unbalanced" reporting by Western networks.

The network's Arabic-language channel was criticised by the US government for its coverage of the war in Iraq.

The original Arabic news channel was set up in 1996.

Mr Parsons, the London-based managing editor of al-Jazeera International, said the planned channel would have around 200 members of staff.

Outlining the project, he said: "We believe there is a gap in the market and we intend to fill it.

Balanced news

"That gap involves a better understanding of the developing world and a more balanced news agenda".

Al-Jazeera, which is financially backed by the Qatari government, is in talks with satellite distributors and hopes to make the new channel available globally.

"There has been a lot of criticism from people who don't speak Arabic and only see tapes of Osama Bin Laden and think that is all al-Jazeera is about," said Mr Parsons.

He says the network hopes that the proposed channel will enable them to "reach out to a wider audience" to show other sides of the network's news coverage.

Mr Parsons added: "One of the aims is to give people a better understanding of each other by presenting both sides of the story".

Al-Jazeera started to attract worldwide attention during the Afghan war in 2001 as it was the only station with a 24-hour satellite link from Kabul to the outside world.

It remained in the spotlight after airing exclusive footage of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the 11 September attacks on the US.

In August the network was forced to close its office in Baghdad by the Iraqi interim government.

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