SYRIA: Satellite TV station keeps Moammar Kadafi on the air
He's in hiding and state TV doesn't take his calls anymore, but Moammar Kadafi can still count on one friendly place to air his calls to burn Libya down: Syria, where beleaguered leader Bashar Assad is allowing a satellite TV station to air all the deposed Libyan leader's fervent appeals.
Al Oruba channel, linked to the privately owned Al Rai station in Syria, aired Kadafi's two latest audio messages Thursday, both calling for any supporters he has left in Libya to keep battling.
"Let there be a long fight and let Libya be engulfed in flames," Kadafi said in one of the messages broadcast Thursday throughout the Arab world.
Al Rai and Al Oruba are owned by Mishan Jabouri, an Iraqi exile and Sunni Arab once close to Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, who was later deposed and executed.
A member of Iraq's parliament in the first years after Hussein's overthrow, Jabouri fled the country after prosecutors indicted him in 2005 on charges of embezzling millions of dollars in state money from contracts to protect Iraq's oil pipelines against attacks. Officials accused him of diverting the money to the country's Sunni insurgency.
Syria allowed Jabouri to make his home in exile there. The U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions against the first satellite channel he set up in Syria, Zawraa TV, after he used it to air videos of insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and denounce Iraq's "American occupiers." Zawraa TV went off the air in 2007.
Jabouri personally broadcast support for Kadafi during Libya's rebellion.
Throughout the rebellion, Kadafi used impromptu, rambling calls to Libyan state TV to get out his defiant messages. He called with appeals for more fighting, and with claims such as that the rebels were crazed young men hopped up on drug-laced Nescafe.
When Libyan rebels seized Tripoli in late August, they made capturing state TV one of their first objectives.
Jabouri's channel in Syria allowed Kadafi to continue his televised messages without skipping a beat, even as the Libyan leader otherwise disappeared from view.
"Cleanse Tripoli of the rats," Kadafi urged in one of his first appeals via the Syrian-based channel, declaring that fighting in Libya would continue "not for months but for years."
Libyan rebels are now seeking Kadafi and demanding his surrender. Kadafi, via Syrian TV, said no.
His sons, also in hiding, have used the Syrian channel to issue their own defiant calls.
All television stations in Syria are closely controlled by Assad's government. Syrian broadcasters say nothing goes out without the government's monitoring and tacit approval.
In early spring, the Arab League sought to block Kadafi's televised appeals by asking the regional satellite TV industry group, the Arab Satellite Communications Organization, to block any channels airing broadcasts on Kadafi's behalf.
-- Special correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer in Beirut.
Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, makes a point to Moammar Kadafi at an Arab summit in 2008. Credit: Hassan Ammar / AFP/Getty Images