LONDON – A civil servant has been charged under Britain’s Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that a newspaper said Tuesday suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded President Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera.
The Daily Mirror reported that Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004. The Bush administration has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.
The Daily Mirror attributed its information to unidentified sources. One source, said to be in the government, was quoted as saying that the alleged threat was “humorous, not serious,” but the newspaper quoted another source as saying that “Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair.”
“We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in an e-mail.
Blair’s office declined to comment on the report, stressing it never discussed leaked documents.
Al-Jazeera said in a statement that it was investigating the report. “If the report is correct, then this would be both shocking and worrisome not only to Al-Jazeera but to media organizations across the world,” it said.