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Germany bans Hezbollah television station Al-Manar

Friday, November 21, 2008

By DAVID RISING, Associated Press Writer

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BERLIN — 

Germany has banned Hezbollah's television station on grounds that it violates the country's constitution, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Friday.

The U.S. banned Al-Manar in 2004, saying it incited terrorist activity. Hezbollah is not banned in Germany but is under observation by the domestic intelligence agency, which tracks extremists.

The Al-Manar ban prevents German satellite television companies from offering the channel.

Government spokesman Markus Beyer said Al-Manar programming was forbidden on Nov. 11 under Article 9 of Germany's constitution, which says that organizations cannot operate with the purpose of violating "international understanding." Beyer was not more specific, but Al-Manar is known to be staunchly anti-Israel and frequently broadcasts footage of Hezbollah fighters.

Al-Manar's public relations chief, Ibrahim Farhat, declined to comment, saying station management would issue a statement later.

Arabic-language Al-Manar is based in Beirut and broadcasts locally and by satellite. It has no physical presence in Germany.

Hezbollah, which has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s, has broad support among Lebanon's Shiite population. Israel and the U.S. consider it a terrorist organization and accuse it of being behind deadly attacks in Lebanon and abroad.

This summer, Hezbollah and its allies joined with supporters of Western-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to form a national unity Cabinet.

The agreement gave Hezbollah and its allies have 11 out of 30 seats in the Cabinet _ enabling them to have veto power over major decisions, keep their weapons and prevent the government from moving too close to the United States.

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Associated Press Writer Hussein Dakroub contributed to this report from Beirut.

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