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National Geographic EXPLORER correspondent Peter Arnett gave a one-hour telephone interview to the U.S. media, describing what it is like to be reporting from Baghdad as the U.S.-led coalition closes in on the Iraq capital. With the sound of B-52 bombers offloading their munitions in the background, the 68-year-old veteran said he was "having a blast" reporting on one of the most important stories of his career.
The interview was given late yesterday by conference call, connecting reporters across the United States with Arnett, who was sitting in his hotel room, he said, "only half a mile or so from 'Shock and Awe'" (the name given by the coalition to the massive bombing blitz on Baghdad last week).
This is an edited version of the questions and answers. The questions were posed by many different journalists during the phone call.
What are you doing in Baghdad; what kind of stories are you looking for?
I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I like being on a big story.
Thank goodness for National Geographic EXPLORER for making it possible for me to be here. It's deja vu all over again. It seems like a replica of the first gulf war.
I wanted to see the end of the story. Being with EXPLORER allows me to look at some of the people I've known here at the more human side of the story. EXPLORER has a relationship with MSNBC so I am doing work for them. Then because NBC decided to pull their people out, along with most of the other American media, I am helping NBC with daily coverage.
Are the Iraqis censoring your reports; restricting your movements? Are you being watched by minders all the time?
They have not imposed censorship at all. But they do require us to attend their regular briefings and press conferences at the Information Ministry every day. The Ministry has made it clear that if we don't attend these briefings then they don't see why we should be allowed to be here. They want us to report their side of the story.
Some people have left the country because they are unwilling to attend these press conferences. It has been rumored that the Information Ministry is going to be a prime target for the U.S.A. Even today there have been stories that it will be attacked. So there is a lot of concern about going to the Information Ministry.
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