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Bush, Blair Address Iraqis Using Former Government’s TV Channels

By Mike Allen

The Bush administration took over Iraqi state television Thursday, replacing tributes to Saddam Hussein with conciliatory greetings from President Bush, the Pentagon and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The shows were beamed onto Baghdad’s Channel 3, one of the deposed government’s frequencies. The Pentagon-controlled programming is part of a multimedia campaign to persuade Iraqis -- sometimes by using the abandoned infrastructure of Saddam’s propaganda networks -- that their country is being liberated, not occupied, and that self-government and free enterprise are on the way.

“We need to convince Arab audiences, which are still skeptical but are beginning to see evidence of our intentions, that we are true to our word,” a senior administration official said. “We are there to help Iraqis create their own new Iraq.”

The administration launched the channel the day after Saddam’s government collapsed and U.S. troops took control of Baghdad. Among the other efforts by the allies to get their message out, Britain plans to begin printing 10,000 copies of an Arabic-language newspaper, Al Zaman (The Times), for distribution in southern Iraq by this weekend.

U.S. officials said that within days, they hope to open a second television channel featuring subtitled versions of the three major U.S. networks’ dinnertime newscasts, as well as PBS’s “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and Fox News Channel’s hour-long politics show, “Special Report with Brit Hume.”

The second channel also will include about two hours of Arabic-language news from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the government agency that oversees Voice of America.

Norman Pattiz, chairman of the Westwood One radio network and a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, said the new channel’s mission will be to give Iraqis “an example of what a free press in the American tradition actually is.”