The head of a U.S.-funded Iraqi newspaper quit and said Monday that he was taking almost his entire staff with him because of American interference in the publication.
In an editorial on the front page of the Al Sabah newspaper, editor in chief Ismail Zair said he and his staff were "celebrating the end of a nightmare we have suffered from for months. We want independence. [The Americans] refuse."
Al Sabah was set up by U.S. officials soon after the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein last year. Since its first issue in July, many Iraqis have considered it the mouthpiece of the U.S.-led coalition.
Zair said almost the entire staff left with him and that they were launching a new paper called Al Sabah al Jedid ("The New Morning") today.
Zair had sought to break Al Sabah away from the Iraqi Media Network, which is run by Harris Corp., a Florida-based company that won a $96-million Pentagon contract in January to develop the country's media.
"We informed [Zair] that the paper would remain part of the IMN," said Tom Hausman of Harris' corporate communications, who added that Al Sabah would continue publishing.
Zair accused Harris of interference, including trying to stop some advertising and speaking to reporters about articles.