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Banging The Drum For The U.S.

The White House confirms that it will be establishing an Office of Global Communications, to promote and explain to the world U.S. policies and actions.

Some functions will be redundant with existing similar functions performed by the State Department, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller, but spokesman Ari Fleischer said Global Communications will help convey the White House view more compellingly.

Asked if Americans can be assured the new office will not engage in disinformation, he said "absolutely."

In February, the Pentagon shut down a new "strategic information" office meant to get the United States' side of the story out and to counter the views of opponents such as the Taliban and al Qaeda. The office proposed internally to use the Internet and other media to spread false information.

The administration is seeking to reverse anti-Americanism in the Arab world and beyond. A series of administration decisions before and after the Sept. 11 attacks brought increasingly sharp criticism, even from some allies.

President Bush has disavowed international pacts on global warming, missile defense systems, germ warfare and an international criminal court. He has angered many allies with threats of war against Iraq, and his support for capital punishment. Last week, he withheld $34 million from a United Nations population fund, arguing that it indirectly promoted abortion and forced sterilization in China.

U.S. officials specifically cited the Middle East and Europe as two key areas where the United States has an image problem. Arabs feel the United States is pro-Israel and cannot be trusted, and many Europeans are appalled at what they perceive as a go-it-alone foreign policy.

The Office of Global Communications has existed for months, quietly working with foreign news media outlets to get the American message out about the war on terrorism.

The new office, which will play essentially a coordinating role among various U.S. agencies at the State Department and elsewhere, will seek to explain "what America is all about and why America does what it does," said Fleischer.

"In recognition of the fact that we are involved in a global war on terror, the president sees a need for a White House role in global communications," Fleischer told reporters.

Meanwhile, a Council on Foreign Relations task force urged the Bush administration to reach for "a deeper understanding of foreign attitudes and more effective communication of our policies," to keep global alienation to a minimum.

"A consensus is emerging, made far more urgent by the war on terrorism, that U.S. public diplomacy requires new thinking," the task force said in a report released Tuesday. "We must come to understand and accept that 'image problems' and 'foreign policy' are not things apart: They are both part of an integrated whole."

The greater emphasis on the Office of Global Communications "is a sign of the importance the president attaches to how other nations see the United States," Fleischer said.

Part of the U.S. effort to date was to open Radio Sawa for broadcast to the Arab world.

Radio Sawa opened March 23 and broadcasts on FM in Amman, Kuwait, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. From AM transmitters in Kuwait and Rhodes, it is also audible in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. U.S. officials have cited anecdotal evidence from the region to say the experiment has been a success.

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