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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 November 2006, 02:55 GMT
PM uses al-Jazeera to target Mid-East
Robin Brant
BBC political correspondent

The al-Jazeera studio
Al-Jazeera launched an English-language station on Wednesday

Al-Jazeera has been described as "propaganda" by the US government.

Tony Blair thinks it is the best way to get his message out across the Middle East.

It's not the first time the prime minister has sat down for the cameras of the Doha-based broadcaster.

Al-Jazeera has been one of the favoured media weapons employed by Downing Street strategists to fight the war of public opinion since the war in Iraq.

This time the word was going out further, much further.

To Israelis and Palestinians, but most significantly to Iran and Syria. George Bush named them as two thirds of his "axis of evil".

Al-Jazeera is carving out a global jigsaw for itself, with its English language network a significant addition

Tony Blair thinks they could be the catalysts to peace, or at least stability, in the Middle East and that opinion has taken on significantly more weight since the American people dealt a heavy blow to President Bush and his Republicans in the mid-term elections at the beginning of the month.

America is about to change strategy in Iraq, and there are many who want to see the US invite Iraq's neighbours to the table.

This is a strategy which Tony Blair has been talking about since the summer, it's very much in line with his overall view of the region; Iraq, Israel... it's all part of a single jigsaw.

Al-Jazeera is carving out a global jigsaw for itself, with its English language network a significant addition.

US audience elusive

The broadcaster now extends its reach to global audiences across the Middle East and Europe from it's Doha base.

Where the BBC and CNN have led, al-Jazeera has followed.

A US audience remains elusive though as no American distributor has come on board yet.

If a document leaked to the Mirror in the summer is to be believed, this appearance is just one in a long line of TV moments which the prime minister has planned in the run up to his departure from Downing Street.

Blue Peter and Songs of Praise were mentioned in the schedule.

Don't expect to hear about Iran and Syria in either of those.

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