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Q&A With Richard Engel: About Covering The “Wider Story” Of The Middle East

engelmay25.jpgMy first question to Richard Engel, the bureau chief for NBC’s new Middle East bureau in Beirut, is simple: Why Beirut?

“It’s a way to expand the Middle East coverage,” Engel explains via cell phone from Baghdad. “We’ll be able to cover lots of other stories and other countries in the Middle East. It’s a dream job because I’ll be able to continue to cover Baghdad as a major part of this assignment — it’s still probably the most significant story in the Middle East — but we’ll be able to expand beyond Iraq, cover stories in Iran, Lebanon, Syria… It really is a way to explore other stories. So that is something that I very much look forward to.”

Engel notes that Beirut is “very much in the center of the region,” and “because of its ethnic and religious mix, it’s quite representative.”

Opening a bureau in the city “definitely shows a commitment to cover the region, and we’re putting the assets in place to do it.”

Engel has been a “rotating correspondent” in Iraq for several years, and he will continue to rotate through.

“The bureau is not downsizing in any way,” he says. “From what I know, it is the biggest of the networks, and it will remain so.”

Engel looks forward to telling the “wider story” about how the war in Iraq has affected the rest of the Middle East.

“I really believe the entire Middle East is going through a historic transformation,” he says.

NBC is building up the bureau as we speak: Renting the space, registering it with local authorities, filling it with people and equipment, and turning on the lights. Engel will continue blogging, from Baghdad, Beirut and elsewhere, on MSNBC.com…

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