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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

VOA Asked Not to Air Omar's Words

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department on Monday defended a decision to ask the U.S.-funded Voice of America radio station not to broadcast a rare interview with Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.

"We didn't think it was right. We didn't think that the American taxpayer, the Voice of America, should be broadcasting the voice of the Taliban," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a news briefing.

VOA sources said the international broadcasting station decided not to air Omar's words last Friday after Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and other officials contacted members of VOA's board to express concern.

The Washington Post, which first reported the official intervention on Sunday, said VOA staff had been angered and quoted one journalist saying it went against "every principle of journalistic ethics."

In the interview, Omar repeated the Taliban's determination not to hand over bin Laden and said the United States had created the "evil that is attacking it" and should stop trying to "expand its empire" to the rest of the world.

A spokesman for VOA said it had never intended to air the entire interview, rather to include sections of it in a wider piece about the situation in Afghanistan, where statistics last year showed 45 percent of the population listened to VOA.

He also said VOA might still use the piece.