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21-11-2011 - Gulf News

Reforms best way to avoid uprisings, Qatar premier says

Manama The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are not immune to popular uprisings, Qatar's prime minister has said. However, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani insisted that the relationship between the people and the rulers in the GCC countries was stronger compared with other countries in the region. "My testimony would not be complete because I am part of the system in the Gulf countries," Shaikh Hamad said. "But I cannot say that GCC countries are one hundred per cent immune.


The truth is that the GCC has always been flexible. The relationships between the ruler and the citizens in the region are different from other countries. There is keenness to preserve traditions and customs and more communication and understanding between the top and the bottom," he told Egyptian daily Akbar Al Yom. He attributed the revolutions to the spread of new ideas in the Arab world that refuse to accept political repression. It is possible to deal with these revolts if the Arab rulers start to implement reforms in their countries quickly and seriously, he said, according to Qatari daily The Peninsula. "In my opinion there is a need to hand over the flag to the young generation but regrettably such a culture is missing in the Arab countries. I cannot help condemning any ruler who kills his people in order to stick to power," Shaikh Hamad, who is also his country's foreign minister, said. In comments on the situation in Qatar, he said that there were no political prisoners in the country and the human rights organisations regularly visited their jails. "There is great progress in education and health sectors and our interest is to develop our society," he said, quoted by the Qatari daily on Friday.


The prime minister insisted that the recent hike in the salaries of government employees was to ensure a better distribution of the country's revenue among the citizens. "This decision was not taken to ease any social or political pressure on the government." Shaikh Hamad denied claims that Qatar had been using Al Jazeera as a foreign policy tool. "This is not true. Media freedom is part of the Emir's vision for the future road map for Qatar." Regarding the situation in Syria, he said that there was no personal disagreement with the Syrian leadership. "We demand the reforms demanded by the Syrian people." Qatar is committed to fulfilling its pledged financial support to Egypt in the form of investments to the tune of $10 billion and was not interested to interfere in its domestic affairs, he said. However, Shaikh Hamad denied allegations that Qatar was supporting some civil society groups and individuals in Egypt to influence its political future. "There is no preferred candidate for the Egyptian presidency. We do not have any links with any of the candidates. This matter is left to the Egyptian people and we will not interfere," he said. According to the prime minister, the Libyan crisis embodied the first positive co-operation between the West and the Arab countries. "The Arab states sought foreign intervention to impose a no-fly zone on Libya to prevent a total destruction of Benghazi and mass killing of Libyans as threatened by Saif Al Islam Gaddafi." The Prime Minister said Qatar was keen to continue its good relations with Iran. "Iran is our immediate neighbour and it is a big country. We do not agree with all their policies and they do not agree will all our policies, but we have agreed to have good relations," he said, quoted by the daily. "We are keen to maintain stability because any tension in the region will affect us directly," he said. Asked if there was any plan for Qatar to host the political bureau of Hamas, the prime minister said Qatar had not discussed this matter yet.

Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights