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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 17:41 GMT
US 'admits' Iraq propaganda drive
Baghdadis reaping newspapers
Can Iraqis trust what they read in the newspapers?
The US military in Iraq has implicitly admitted that it is running a campaign to plant articles in Iraqi papers aimed at improving its image in the country.

The Los Angeles Times said the Pentagon had secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to run articles reflecting well on the US.

Many stories are being presented as independent accounts, the paper said.

Questioned about the issue, a US spokesman in Baghdad said Iraq's most-wanted militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was also using the media.

"He [Zarqawi] is conducting these kidnappings, these beheadings, these explosions, so that he gets international coverage to look like he has more capability than he truly has," Maj Gen Rick Lynch said in Baghdad.

We do empower our commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public but everything we do is based on fact
Maj Gen Rick Lynch

"He is lying to the Iraqi people. We don't lie - we don't need to lie," he added.

"We do empower our operational commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public but everything we do is based on fact, not based on fiction."

In a report published on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times said the articles in question trumpet the work of US and Iraqi troops.

It alleged they were written by US soldiers, and translated into Arabic by a defence contractor which helps place them in Baghdad papers.

The LA Times said the stories were then presented as unbiased accounts by independent journalists, rather than stemming from the US military.

Although many are basically factual, they only present one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the US or Iraqi government, the newspaper added.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says the allegations are an embarrassment to the American military at a time when it is trying to promote transparency in Iraq.

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