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Arnett criticized for saying U.S. war plan `has failed'

WASHINGTON—Former CNN reporter Peter Arnett, who became a household name by reporting from Baghdad during the first Gulf War in 1991, was interviewed by Iraqi TV Sunday and said, "The first war plan has just failed because of Iraqi resistance."

Arnett, 68, in Baghdad for NBC, has been working on a special for MSNBC's "National Geographic Explorer" about how Iraqi civilians are coping with war. He is one of the few Western correspondents left in the Iraqi capital.

Some critics seized on Arnett's remarks as aiding the enemy.

After declaring that the U.S. war plan had failed, Arnett said: "Now they are trying to write another war plan. Clearly the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces."

NBC said that Arnett's interview was a "professional courtesy" afforded to Iraqi TV.

"His remarks were analytical in nature and were not intended to be anything more," NBC said in a statement.

His surprise appearance was the latest curiosity in the information war that has accompanied the battlefield hostilities. While American news networks have largely shown pictures of precision bombing and troop movements, Arab channels have been full of images of civilian casualties and American POWs.

"President Bush says he is concerned about the Iraqi people, but if Iraqi people are dying in numbers, then American policy will be challenged very strongly," Arnett said in the interview. "Clearly, the American war planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces."

Former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato criticized Arnett in an interview on Fox News Channel, which made Arnett's remarks one of its top stories Sunday and is one of MSNBC's key rivals. "He gives aid and comfort to the enemy," D'Amato said. "He's buttering them up."

Arnett praised the Iraqi Ministry of Information for its cooperation with his film team during the interview. Earlier in the month, the government expelled correspondents from Arnett's former employer, CNN, for what it called biased reporting.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.