KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait closed down the office of Qatar's satellite channel Al-Jazeera because it took a "hostile" stand against Kuwait and for security reasons, senior Kuwaiti officials said in newspaper remarks published Monday.
"I believe the closure of this shop is better for security reasons. I don't consider it an office as much as I consider it a shop," Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah was quoted as saying in Al-Rai Al-Aam.
Sheikh Sabah said the station does not represent Qatar and that he was keen to separate the two.
Otherwise "they (Qatar) would have been able to control this station or stop it from committing any violations."
Al-Jazeera correspondent Saad al-Enezi said on Sunday that he had received a telephone call from Kuwait's information ministry officially notifying him that a decision had been taken to close down the station.
"They said it was because Al-Jazeera is biased," Enezi said.
Kuwaiti Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah told Al-Watan: "News should be carried in a professional way by Al-Jazeera," whose coverage of recent events here "took a hostile stand against Kuwait."
The emirate could bear aggression against people but not against the country itself, Sheikh Ahmad said without elaborating.
"The decision has already been taken. We're sorry to take the decision especially when Kuwait is a model in democracy and press freedoms," Sheikh Ahmad said, adding that Al-Jazeera had been warned more than once in the past.
"We have dealt with Al-Jazeera on the basis that it is an independent station ... The majority of Kuwaitis are satisfied with the closure."
Qatar's Al-Raya newspaper, which generally reflects the official point of view, said it was Saudi Arabia that was "secretly leading a war on Al-Jazeera to reduce its presence" in the conservative Gulf states.
The kingdom is exercising "all sorts of pressure, including a decision to stop Saudi firms from advertising on Al-Jazeera," it said.
Al-Jazeera won world fame for its exclusive reports during the US-led strikes on Afghanistan and for its interviews with presumed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Launched in November 1996, Al-Jazeera is popular among Arab viewers but has irked many governments in the region for tackling political, social and at times sexual issues, previously regarded as taboo.
Al-Jazeera opened its Kuwait office in April 2001 with approval from Kuwaiti authorities.