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Finally: Al Jazeera in America

Al Jazeera English will begin broadcasting in the U.S. on July 1 in the Washington, D.C. area, the first time the Qatar based satellite channel will be available to a wide swath of American households, the website Arabian Business reported Thursday. 

“On July 1 we are going to launch the first operation in cable distribution in the United States,” Al Jazeera's director general, Wadah Khanfar, told Arabian Business in an interview. 

Khanfar said his network will be distributed by a Washington, D.C.-based cable company that has 2.3 million subscribers. 

Al Jazeera has been accused by some of being a "mouthpiece for terrorists," but the English service, launched in 2006, has won accolades for its coverage of such events as the Gaza war this past winter. The network launched with  a rumored $1 billion start-up cost and attracted such names as famed television interviewer David Frost.

The network is curently only available in the U.S. on two local cable networks in Burlington, Vt. and Toledo, Ohio. Al Jazeera is also available via the internet on YouTube, and in the Pentagon. Reports have said the network is the top choice for news for many active U.S. soldiers.

Still, U.S. cable operators have been reluctant to add Al Jazeera English to their line-ups amid concerns that the network shows Osama bin Laden and kidnapping videos, and is anti-American.

But Khanfar told Arabian Business that a more "benevolent political climate" has lessened those conerns. 

“I think the atmosphere is changing now. We have negotiations taking place with many cable companies in the United States and Canada and I hope that very soon we are going to hear a lot of good news,” he told the website.

“Starting next month, we will have a growing audience in the United States.”

The network is interested in breaking into the New York City market as a next step. Al Jazeera English is a susidiary of Al Jazeera, which also runs the Arabic news service. Both are based in Doha, Qatar, not far from the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command.