November 4, 2009 / 3:34 PM / 8 years ago

Iran's Al Alam TV says dropped by Arab satellites

(Refiling to fix typo in headline)

DUBAI, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Iran's Arabic-language television network Al Alam said on Wednesday that it had been taken off the air by Arab satellite operators based in Egypt and Saudi Arabia without explanation.

The move highlights long-simmering tensions between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and several U.S.-allied Sunni Muslim Arab countries that analysts say are worried about a rise in Tehran's influence in the region through Shi'ite minorities.

"The Saudi-based Arabsat network and Nilesat in Cairo have taken the Arabic-language network off air," a statement on the Iranian channel's website said.

"The technical section of Al Alam reported on Tuesday that the Iranian network's officials have contacted the officials running the two satellite operators, but have received no response," it said.

Egypt's state news agency MENA said the operators of Nilesat and Arabsat stopped broadcasting Al Alam citing a contractual breach without elaborating.

Nilesat Chief Executive Ahmed Anis confirmed that his firm had dropped Al Alam due to an unspecified breach of contract.

A spokesman at Arabsat's headquarters in Riyadh was not available for comment. The operator is owned by a group of Arab countries.

Al Alam has followed the Yemeni government's war with Shi'ite rebels in north Yemen, reporting regularly on statements by the rebels who have accused Saudi Arabia of backing the government in Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday a security officer was killed and 11 others wounded in an attack by gunmen in an area near the Yemeni border, which Yemeni rebels said they had seized in a cross-border raid. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are close allies of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has said individuals in Iran are funding the rebels but stopped short of accusing the government.

Yemen summoned Iran's ambassador in August to complain of Iranian media coverage.

The rebels say Saudi Arabia is offering military aid to Sanaa, which the Yemeni government denies.

Saudi Arabia fears instability in Yemen, which also faces a separatist movement in the south, could give al Qaeda the chance to revive a campaign of violence inside the world's top oil exporter.

U.S.-allied Arab governments have watched with alarm as Shi'ite Iran's influence spread in the region after the 2003 Iraq invasion via anti-Western groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the occupied Palestinian territories. (Additional reporting by Cairo and Riyadh bureaux; Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Inal Ersan)

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