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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Gulf neighbours hope to heal rift
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Emir Hamad bin Khalifa of Qatar
Saudi Arabian and Qatari leaders do not always see eye-to-eye
Gulf state Qatar has held talks with its giant neighbour Saudi Arabia in Monte Carlo to try to patch up ties.

"The meeting was in the framework of further developing ties and resolving differences," said Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim.

The meeting was attended by Emir Hamad bin Khalifa of Qatar and Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

Strains stem from critical coverage of Saudi Arabia on Qatar's al-Jazeera TV and Qatar's ties with Israel.

Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who is reported to have arranged the meeting, was also present.

One report says the talks were held to discuss the Saudi suspicion that Qatar is supporting exiled opposition figures such as the London-based Saudi dissident Saad al-Faqih.

Qatar for its part accuses Riyadh of involvement in an attempted coup in 1996.

Full-blown row

Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas, quoting ministerial sources, said the meeting was scheduled to take place on a yacht

"With their wisdom, the leaders of both countries can resolve all kinds of conflicts," Sheikh Hamad said in an al-Jazeera interview, describing relations with Saudi Arabia as "good".

Analysts say Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are both ruled by members of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi branch of Islam, have never enjoyed warm relations.

Tensions blew up into a full-blown public row in 2002 when Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Doha and boycotted a regional meeting there.

The mutual disaffection is holding up construction of an undersea gas pipeline from Qatar to Kuwait that would cross Saudi territorial waters.

Qatar has come under pressure to close or reform al-Jazeera from its neighbour and the United States, but it continues to broadcast its trademark programmes featuring where furious debate and political invective, often directed at America and Arab rulers.

The BBC's Gail MacLellan
"How the different groups will share power remains a source of friction"

Al-Jazeera: News channel in the news
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30 Sep 02  |  Middle East
Country profile: Qatar
10 Jun 04  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
29 May 04  |  Country profiles

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