CNN dismisses senior editor for praising 'terrorist' cleric

CNN has has fired a senior editor for Middle East news after she published a Twitter message saying she respected a Lebanese Shia cleric whom the US had branded a terrorist, American and British media said yesterday.

The Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, one of Shia Islam's highest religious authorities and an early mentor of the militant group Hezbollah, died in Beirut on Sunday.

Octavia Nasr, who had worked for CNN for 20 years and was based in Atlanta, wrote on Twitter: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot," The New York Times reported.

Some supporters of Israel saw the Twitter posting almost immediately and took issue with it, the newspaper said. CNN officials were not immediately available for comment, but The New York Times cited Parisa Khosravi, the senior vice-president for CNN International Newsgathering, as saying in an internal memorandum that she had "had a conversation" with Ms Nasr and that it had been "decided that she will be leaving the company".

Fadlallah was a supporter of Iran's Islamic Revolution and one of the first backers of the Iraqi Dawa Party of the country's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki. He was also the spiritual leader and mentor of Hezbollah when it was formed after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, though he later distanced himself from its ties with Iran.

CNN officials became aware of Ms Nasr's Twitter message on Monday, and a spokesman said on Tuesday that it was an "error of judgment" on her part, The New York Times reported.

"CNN regrets any offence her Twitter message caused. It did not meet CNN's editorial standards. This is a serious matter and will be dealt with accordingly," the spokesman said, according to The New York Times.

The BBC report said that Nasr wrote in a blog post on Tuesday: "Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and provides a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East."