Deposed Emir Can Return To Qatar Any Time He Wishes
DOHA, Qatar (AP) _ The deposed emir of Qatar is welcome to return to his country any time he wishes, the foreign minister said.
Sheik Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, who was vacationing in Switzerland when his son seized power Tuesday, said at the time that he would return to Qatar ``whatever the cost.″
Foreign Minister Sheik Jasim bin Hamad told the British Broadcasting Corp. the coup was ``in the interest of Sheik Khalifa himself.″
The minister said the new ruler, 45-year-old Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, ``has issued clear instructions that ... (his father’s) return to Qatar is a normal matter at any time that he sees suitable.″
The interview with the BBC’s Arabic service was broadcast late Wednesday and quoted by the official Qatar News Agency on Thursday.
Sheik Khalifa, 65, who himself seized power in Qatar 23 years ago by overthrowing a cousin, called this week’s coup ``unacceptable.″
But as the new ruler quickly moved to gain _ and win _ acceptance from the neighboring gulf monarchies led by Saudi Arabia, Sheik Khalifa ceased comment and canceled a Geneva news conference.
Diplomats said they expect Sheik Khalifa to go to Saudi Arabia to live as a guest of King Fahd.
The feud within the Al Thani family has persisted behind the scenes since before Qatar gained its independence from Britain in 1971. Several family members have been living abroad for years in self-exile.
In the BBC interview, the foreign minister said ``we cannot go into the circumstances″ that led to Tuesday’s coup ``because they relate to a dear father who holds a special status with us.″
``It is difficult at present, but the days will prove that what took place is in the interest of his highness Sheik Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani,″ he said.
Sheik Khalifa will remain ``one of the symbols of Qatar ... and we would all be happy to have him present in his country,″ he added.
Qatar, one of the world’s richest countries, has a per capita income of $13,600, mostly through oil exports. It sits atop one of the world’s largest gas reserves. Two-thirds of its 513,000 residents are Indian, Pakistani, Iranian and Palestinian expatriates.