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Gary Younge
Veteran reporter sacked over TV claims

The veteran American war correspondent and Pulitzer prize winning television reporter, Peter Arnett, was sacked yesterday after he told Iraqi television that US military plans against Saddam Hussein were failing.

The national TV network, NBC, fired Arnett after he granted an impromptu interview to Iraq's state-run television, during which he echoed widespread scepticism over the Pentagon's strategy.

"Clearly, the American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces," he said. "Now America is reappraising the battlefield, delaying the war, maybe a week and rewriting the war plan. The first plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance."

Arnett claimed that negative dispatches from the front would undermine the war effort. "It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments," he said.

The interview was replayed at least twice in Iraq and later screened on American television, where it prompted outrage from several politicians.

"It is incredible that he would be kowtowing to what clearly is the enemy in this way," said Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida.

NBC originally defended Arnett, who won a Pulitzer for his reporting of the Vietnam war, and praised him for risking his life to deliver news from Baghdad.

But under the avalanche of protest in the wake of Arnett's comments they sacked him yesterday morning.

"It was wrong for Mr Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war," NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust said.

Arnett stood by his comments yesterday, insisting his views were not "out of line with what experts think", but expressed regret for what he called a "stupid misjudgment" in granting the interview.

The Pentagon will not be sad to see the back of Arnett. During the first Gulf war in 1991 it accused him of being a conveyor of Iraqi propaganda.

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