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Cablegate: Spanish Reaction to Newsweek's Retraction of Koran

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS MADRID 001880

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO KISL SP
SUBJECT: SPANISH REACTION TO NEWSWEEK'S RETRACTION OF KORAN
DESECRATION STORY

REF: STATE 90992

1. The Spanish media have given very prominent coverage to
Newsweek's retraction of its Koran desecration allegation
story. All national and major regional broadcast and print
media have made the retraction either the lead or one of the
top three international stories in May 17 reports, including
national television stations TVE (state-run), Antena 3, and
TeleCinco, and major radio networks Radio Nacional
(state-run), Radio Nacional, Radio SER (the ratings leader
and usually anti-American), and COPE. Elements of our
talking points are included in all of the stories and most
stories contain the USG's point of view; we are emphasizing
the retraction with media and government officials as
appropriate.

2. The Spanish dailies note that the White House is "angry"
or "indignant" over the original story; most accounts state
that the White House "pressured" Newsweek to retract the
story. The Newsweek retraction story, titled "Newsweek
retracts report on Koran desecrations in Guantanamo; White
House pressured the magazine to deny the report, not just
apologize," was the lead in national daily-of-record El Pais.
Conservative daily ABC led with "Newsweek retracts article
about offenses against the Koran after U.S. pressures; Bush
Administration criticizes magazine for seriously harming U.S.
image by accusing, without proof, desecrations against the
Koran in Guantanamo." Centrist daily El Mundo ran a
ten-paragraph story titled "White House not satisfied with
Newsweek's apologies." The retraction was also the lead
story in Barcelona-based La Vanguardia, although its
sub-heading was "U.S. can't stop Islamic anger denying the
desecration." Most stories note that anger in the Islamic
world over the initial allegations remains. More critical
media note that the U.S. image had already been severely
damaged by the Abu Ghraib scandal and the issue of Guantanamo.

3. The Islamic Commission of Spain, the official
representative of the Muslim community in Spain for
negotiations with the GOS, issued a statement May 14
condemning the desecration of the Koran by U.S. soldiers at
Guantanamo Bay, as reported by Newsweek. The statement calls
the Guantanamo allegations a "new provocation" where it is
necessary for Muslims "to react calmly, but firmly." The
text also criticizes "torture, maltreatment, and abuse"
against Muslim prisoners at "Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and
other sites," and talks of how the USG "lacks credibility" to
investigate these abuses. The Islamic Commission's official
web site also reproduces the article "800 Days in
Guantanamo," by Luis de Vega that contains allegations of
U.S. soldiers desecrating the Koran. Spanish dailies have
widely covered worldwide reaction to claims by Newsweek of
desecration of the Koran, but the Spanish Muslim community
has not been involved in large-scale demonstrations during
the past week. Since the March 11 train bombings in Madrid,
the Spanish Muslim community has generally kept a lower
profile than other European Muslim communities. The Islamic
commission has not yet commented on Newsweek's retraction.
Embassy is trying to contact the Islamic Commission to urge
coverage of the retraction. Poloff discussed talking points
with Mustapha El M'Rabet, the President of the Association of
Moroccan Immigrants and Workers (ATIME) and a leading voice
on Islamic issues in Spain. M'Rabet said he was aware of the
press coverage, but that his organization would not issue any
statement regarding the News

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