France's CSA broadcasting authority has called for a ban on the Lebanese Hizb Allah-run Al-Manar's broadcasts to Europe, saying the channel, accused by critics of being anti-Semitic, breached an earlier agreement not to show programmes that could incite hatred among religions.
French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin said on Thursday that Al-Manar's programmes were incompatible with French values, and that he would seek the means to legally suspend Al-Manar and any channel that could provoke hatred or violence.
Speaking to Aljazeera in Beirut on Friday, Al-Manar TV News director Hasan Fadl Allah said the calls to take the channel off the air in Europe were part and parcel of Israeli attempts to stir up problems between France and the Muslim world.
He said Al-Manar was authorised to broadcast by satellite inside the European Union just two weeks ago after it signed an agreement with France's CSA not to incite hatred or violence.
Should the channel be banned from broadcasting in Europe through Eutelsat, Fadl Allah said viewers in Europe would be able to watch Al-Manar through other satellites.
Al-Manar insists its programmes
fit with French cultural values
"We were astonished to hear the French prime minister saying that Al-Manar's programmes do not fit with French values, which we reject,"
said Fadl Allah.
"Our programmes are based on cultural, Islamic and Arab values that a billion people believe in, and it fits with some French values like freedom, justice and human rights."
Al-Manar is the mouthpiece of the Hizb Allah movement, which played a major role in forcing an end to Israel's 22-year occupation of south Lebanon. The United States classes Hizb Allah as a terrorist group, but France does not.
Al-Manar is one of several Arabic language satellite channels popular among France's five million Muslims, mostly of North African origin. Paris has expressed concern about growing Islamist influence among disaffected Muslim youths.