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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 11:29 GMT
Arab media fall silent on Khaddam
By Sebastian Usher
BBC World media correspondent

There are signs that influential Arab media outlets have been instructed not to carry more statements by former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, who has called for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

Abdul Halim Khaddam is interviewed by al-Arabiya
Khaddam was at the heart of Syrian politics for more than 20 years

Several Saudi-owned outlets have not shown or published lengthy interviews that they have conducted with Mr Khaddam.

Other Arab media sources say this is a result of instructions from the Saudi government.

Last Friday's edition of the Saudi-owned newspaper al-Hayat - one of the most respected media outlets in the Arab world - said that it would be publishing a new interview with Mr Khaddam in full the next day.

I am a target - my life is at risk, but I am not afraid
Abdul Halim Khaddam

But Saturday's edition of the newspaper had no trace of the interview and no explanation of why it had not been published.

The Saudi-owned TV station, MBC, is also reported to have conducted a three-hour interview with the former Syrian vice president - now in exile in Paris - that was to be shown last Friday.

It, too, was not broadcast.

International pressure

There are also reports that another TV station, the Dubai-based al-Arabiya - financed in large part by Saudi money - backed out of showing new allegations by Mr Khaddam.

The London-based newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi, which maintains a strong anti-American and anti-Saudi line, has quoted unnamed Saudi sources alleging that the country's information ministry had instructed the Saudi-owned media to stop focusing on Mr Khaddam.

This is in stark contrast to the earlier behaviour of the Saudi-financed media towards Mr Khaddam.

Al-Arabiya and another influential newspaper, al-Sharq al-Awsat, carried inflammatory interviews with Mr Khaddam in which he called for the toppling of the Syrian regime.

Unconfirmed reports in the Arab media suggest that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who both met Mr Assad over the weekend, are keen to ease the pressure on Syria, fearing that it may be getting out of control.



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