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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 15:12 GMT
France pulls plug on Arab network
Al-Manar TV station
The station has been monitored closely for anti-Semitic output
France's highest administrative court has banned a TV station on the grounds that it is inciting racial hatred.

The Council of State ordered France-based satellite company Eutelsat to stop transmitting Lebanese station al-Manar within 48 hours.

Al-Manar issued a statement claiming the ban was the result of Israeli pressure "following a political campaign by the Zionist lobby".

The station also criticised the ban as an attack on freedom of expression.

The court cited a 23 November broadcast in which a speaker accused Israel of deliberately disseminating Aids in Arab nations.

It said the channel had shown itself incapable of conforming to French law al-Manar had been authorised to continue broadcasting in Europe by France's media watchdog after signing an undertaking not to incite hatred or violence.

But on 2 December French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin called for the station to be taken off air for its "anti-Semitic" content "incompatible with French values".

The station, backed by the Lebanon's Iranian-sponsored Islamist movement Hezbollah, can be beamed to France on at least two non-French satellites, over which the court has no jurisdiction.

Last week, Lebanese officials warned measures against the channel could spark retaliatory sanctions on French media outlets in Lebanon.

Israel has previously congratulated France for moving against al-Manar.

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