Iraqi clerics are paid to spin for US

A company headed by a young British businessman at the centre of a controversy over the Pentagon's information war in Iraq has been making payments to Islamic clerics in exchange for advice on how to target Sunnis with pro-American propaganda.

Since early last year the Lincoln Group - set up by Christian Bailey, an Oxford graduate - has been consulting Sunni clerics on how to write messages that would persuade Sunnis to participate in national elections and oppose the insurgency. Three or four have been retained by the company to advise US troops preparing "positive spin messages" as part of a propaganda campaign.

Lincoln Group secured a contract worth more than $100m to place stories written by US troops in Iraqi newspapers and make cash payments to Iraqi journalists to write similarly uncritical stories for their newspapers.

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