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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: HIS EXCELLENCY, SHEIKH HAMAD FOREIGN MINISTER OF QATAR MARCH 9th, 2003
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DAVID FROST: And now we move on, on that same subject of the upcoming war. If and when military action is launched against Iraq, the tiny Gulf state of Qatar will be in the front line. Several thousand American troops are already based in Qatar and it's from there that the United States central command will direct any war. But by playing host to the US forces, Qatar has probably put itself at odds with some of its neighbours as well and to explain where the country stands at the moment I'm joined now by the Foreign Minister, His Excellency Sheikh Hamad. Your Excellency, we welcome you.
SHEIKH HAMAD: Thank you David.
DAVID FROST: You've just come from Washington and meetings with President Bush and Colin Powell, what message did you get from them? What was their mood?
SHEIKH HAMAD: Well I think the mood is, the time is running and the UN and the Security Council, of course we are in Qatar, we believe that they have to take their role in this and to say what they have to say in this - they have the last say in this. The administration, I think, in the United States, as all of us know, that they have to put a time limit for this and it doesn't drag for longer than what it should. So the mood is, at the moment, is short period left for what we call diplomatic or a peaceful solution and we in Qatar hope that these things could be solved peacefully, as a small nation we'll be very affected if this war happens.
DAVID FROST: If war happens, do you think the whole region will be affected or could it be, could a world without Saddam Hussein, a Middle East without Saddam Hussein, be better and safer?
SHEIKH HAMAD: First of all, affected from the war I don't think they will be affected, physically affected, from the war. But politically after the war, yes, it will be affected because a lot of things have to be changed in the, in the area where we are at the moment, in the political arena in terms of democracy and all other things. A world without Saddam Hussein, of course I am not, you know, we have a policy in Qatar not to try to interfere who is rule Iraq or who is rule other countries. But of course I think if we have, if we go back for 20 years, there is a lot of problems happen between Iraq and their neighbours, between Iran and Iraq, between Iraq and Kuwait and other things. So I think we are looking for a future with a peaceful solution if it's possible, without any military tension ...
DAVID FROST: But without Saddam Hussein, would the Middle East be safer? If he, if he agreed to go into exile?
SHEIKH HAMAD: That's a very difficult question, but I think - I don't want to interfere in this - but I think without a lot of leaders in the region could be better.
DAVID FROST: (LAUGHS) Would you just like to jot them down on a piece of paper there?
SHEIKH HAMAD: Later.
DAVID FROST: Was it a difficult decision to say yes to the United States to provide them with the facilities they needed in Qatar, or was it easy?
SHEIKH HAMAD: Well it was not easy for a small country to do that. You know, it's easy for you or for the American or anyone to feel that, okay that's a great decision but it's a good decision, a normal decision. For us in Qatar to make up our minds to do that it's a major decision His Highness the Emir of Qatar took. And we took it because we consider our relation with United States, first of all. Second thing is that we believe that there is interest between both of us to have a long relationship when we help our friends when they need us. We did this with Afghanistan, with the terror in Afghanistan. I think from day one we've been in the same boat with the American and the allies to fight the terror.
DAVID FROST: And in fact in terms of going into this war, you've had long discussions, but presumably you're hopeful that, first of all you said you're hopeful it can be solved peacefully still, but if there was a war, presumably you have to know what's going to happen, presumably you think it would be a very short war. The shorter the better, probably.
SHEIKH HAMAD: The shorter is the better, that's right. Still we pray for no war, but if there is war, yes, I think the shorter is better. We don't want the Iraqi people to suffer or the region to be, you know, in a tension for a long time.
DAVID FROST: With these two recent conferences, where there was sort of public disagreements and so on, are you coming to a point in the Arab world, do you think, where rather like Europe there are clear differences between people in the Arab world? That there's not a total unity in Europe and there's not a total unity any more in the Arab world?
SHEIKH HAMAD: It's always there is no total unity in the Arab world but we always showed the people that, you know, we speak something and we do something else. But now I think it's a healthy situation, everybody know the position of the others. I mean you have different, for example with the French or with the German in this war, and everybody know it loud and speak loudly. So I think if it happens in our region that we know where is our difference and our public know our difference and know where our agreements - because also we agreed on many issues.
DAVID FROST: And do you think, knowing the sort of guy that Saddam Hussein is, does it worry you at all that as a result of what you've decided to do, which we're all grateful for, but I mean what you've decided to do, there could be revenge attacks from Iraq on Qatar?
SHEIKH HAMAD: This is - this is possible. This is possible, you know. Revenge from Iraq or from fundamental groups and these people which they carry the terrorism, we always take this in our consideration. But we make our decision and we have, you know, if there is something to be paid, it will be paid.
DAVID FROST: Thank you very much.
SHEIKH HAMAD: A pleasure sir.
DAVID FROST: Delighted to have you with us today, thank you very much indeed.
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