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Famed journalist sacked for criticising US war plan

NBC's Peter Arnett, famed for his coverage of the Vietnam War and the first Gulf war, was sacked after he suggested on Iraqi TV that the US war plan had failed.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2003 20:39 IST

Award-winning news correspondent Peter Arnett, famed for his coverage of the Vietnam War and the first Gulf war, has been sacked by

NBC

after he suggested on Iraqi television that the US war plan had failed.

On its Today's Show morning news broadcast, NBC read a statement from network officials announcing that the New Zealand-born Arnett had been canned.

"It was wrong for Mr Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi television, especially at a time of war," the NBC statement said.

"And it was wrong for him to discuss personal observations and opinions in that interview.

"Therefore," the statement concluded, "Peter Arnett will no longer be reporting for NBC News and MSNBC."

On the same broadcast on Monday, Arnett offered his apologies to NBC and to the US public, saying he was "embarrassed" by the controversy that had erupted following his comments.

"Clearly, by giving that interview to Iraqi television, I created a firestorm in the United States, and for that I am truly sorry," he said, adding that it had been "an impromptu interview."

"I gave some personal observations -- some analytical observations -- which I don't think are out of line with what experts think," Arnett said.

"But clearly I misjudged the firestorm," said Arnett, 68, who is a naturalised American.

"I am not anti-war ... I am not anti-military," he told viewers on NBC on Monday.

Condemnation for the comments came from around the United States. Former New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato, interviewed on Fox News on Sunday, said Arnett's comments gave "aid and comfort to the enemy."

"He's buttering them up," D'Amato said.

Early in the scandal, NBC stood by Arnett, saying in a press release that "his remarks were analytical in nature and were not intended to be anything more."

In his controversial comments broadcast this past weekend by Iraqi television, Arnett said "the first war plan has just failed because of Iraqi resistance."

"Clearly the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces," Arnett told Iraqi journalists.

It is the second career-stalling scandal in Arnett's 40-year career.

Arnett, in Baghdad for NBC and National Geographic Explorer, was one of the few Western correspondents in the Iraqi capital. He became a household name by reporting for CNN from Baghdad during the first Gulf War in 1991.

But he was fired by CNN for his involvement in a 1998 story on Operation Tailwind, which alleged that the US forces used nerve gas in a 1970 mission to hunt down US defectors during the Vietnam War.

That story was vigorously denied by US military officials, and ultimately was retracted by CNN.

Arnett said on Monday that he has no immediate plans.

"There's a small island in the South Pacific, uninhabited, which I will try to swim to," he said.

First Published: Mar 31, 2003 20:39 IST