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Entries in Qatar (8)

Wednesday
Jan042012

Taliban's New Qatar Office Could Hasten Afghan War Peace Talks

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In what could wind up being a giant step toward ending the 10-year long war in Afghanistan, the Taliban has announced that it will open a political office in Qatar.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, would not say when the office would actually open.

It's also unclear whether this is a move by the Taliban to finally enter into serious negotiations to end the conflict or if the group is simply reiterating its demand that the U.S. and its NATO allies withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Washington prefers to see the glass as half-full, given that the Taliban is overwhelmingly outmanned and out-equipped in the war despite showing no signs of surrendering or abandoning attempts to overthrown the fragile Afghan government.

Since almost the onset of the war, U.S. officials have maintained that it would end through a political solution, not an all-out military victory.

The wild card throughout the decade has been the role of Pakistan, which provides safe haven to the Taliban, al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists while at the same time, claiming to fight terrorists that also want to overthrow the regime in Islamabad.

If and when the office in Qatar opens, the U.S. and its allies would likely meet Taliban intermediaries there to work out some kind of reconciliation process.  The last attempts at talks ended badly last September when lead Afghan peace negotiator Burhanuddi Rabbani was killed by an assassin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec302011

Taliban to Open Office as Obama Admin. Looks for Political Solution in Afghanistan

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Negotiations with the very people who have been killing American service members in Afghanistan are now seen by the Obama administration as the only way to salvage a positive outcome there.

To that end, after nearly a year of direct negotiations with the United States, the Taliban is about to open its first official office, according to Afghan and Western officials. It's the most significant sign yet that the Obama administration has decided an expedited political solution including the al Qeada-linked group is the only way to end the war in Afghanistan.

According to officials, the office is expected to open as early as the next few months in Qatar. It will facilitate negotiations with the Taliban that will include unprecedented local ceasefires in Afghanistan and the transfer of Afghan prisoners from American prisons -- even though they are labeled “high risk” to the U.S. and associated with the deaths of a CIA officer in 2001 and hundreds of U.S. soldiers in 10 years of fighting since the attacks on 9-11.

Direct negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban began early this year and sped up in the summer, in part because the White House has doubts about the military’s ability to decisively win the war, according to two Western officials.

The war’s costs, widespread corruption in the Afghan government, Pakistani intransigence and continued violence in eastern Afghanistan -- even as violence in southern Afghanistan decreases – have led many to lower expectations for what can be accomplished by a shrinking number of U.S. troops.

“Insurgencies end with political processes,” said a senior administration official. “We have been very clear that we are open to a reconciliation process provided Taliban who engage in it recognize that the process will be Afghan-led and that at the end of the day they break ties with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and accept the Afghan Constitution, including its protections of women’s and human rights.”

The details of the Taliban office were confirmed by Western officials and were given by Afghan officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Obama administration officials declined comment for the record.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec052011

Steal Russian Secrets the Easy Way: Beat Up the Ambassador?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Forget painstaking clandestine surveillance or risky "black bag" operations -- according to the Russian government, Qatari officials have come up with a faster way to steal state secrets: beat up the ambassador carrying them.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it was downgrading diplomatic relations with Qatar following an alleged violent assault on one of its ambassadors in a Doha airport late last month.

Calling the incident "outrageous" on its Twitter feed, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that on Nov. 29, Russian ambassador to Qatar, Vladimir Titorenko, was assaulted by security and customs personnel who were "trying to force him away from sealed bags" held in the diplomatic pouch. RIA Novosti, a state-owned Russian news outlet, said the security officials were reportedly attempting to X-ray the diplomatic mail.

Titorenko was injured in the attack along with two other Russian embassy officials who were at the airport, Russian officials said. The Russian ambassador is reportedly being treated for injuries suffered in the attack in Qatar.

The day after the alleged attack, the Russian government said it delivered a note of protest to the Qatari embassy in Moscow demanding an immediate investigation into the incident and a public apology for the "flagrant violation of universally recognized norms of international law." Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke with the Qatari prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs to notify them of the change in diplomatic relations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Qatari officials have not publicly responded to the Russian allegations and officials at the Qatari embassy in Moscow and the U.S. did not immediately return requests for comment on this report.

Titorenko, Russian officials said, had been returning from a "business trip" to Jordan when he was accosted.

Diplomatic pouches, a longtime favorite method for sending extremely sensitive communications across international lines, are protected from being "opened or detained" by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Any official carrying the bag, the international agreement says, "shall be protected by the receiving State in the performance of his functions... [and] shall enjoy personal inviolability and shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep132011

Could the Taliban Open an Office in Qatar with US Permission? 

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Taliban plan to open a diplomatic office in Qatar by the end of the year, and the United States may have given the Qataris the OK to do so, according to the Times of London.
 
But Tuesday, when pressed repeatedly about the report, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland wouldn’t even comment.
 
“We have nothing for you on that” is all Nuland would say Tuesday. “I'm not prepared to comment one way or the other on that one.”
 
Of course, with the large attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Tuesday wasn’t the best day for the U.S. to confirm overtures with the Taliban.
 
There were talks of a similar office opening up in Turkey about a year ago.  It was said to be part of an effort to reconcile with the Taliban.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun032011

Woman Who Claimed Rape by Gadhafi Forces Returned to Libya

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(GENEVA) -- Iman al-Obeidi, the Libyan woman who dramatically burst into a Tripoli hotel where journalists were staying accusing Moammar Gadhafi's forces of gang raping her, was deported from Qatar back to Libya Thursday.

Al-Obeidi fled to Tunisia and then to Qatar following her arrest and subsequent release.  Vincent Cochetel, the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told ABC News that al-Obeidi was flown to eastern Libya at midday on a military plane since there are no commercial flights into Benghazi.

Cochetel says al-Obeidi feared returning to Libya and that she was sent back “by force.”

Officially, al-Obeidi was deported because she had overstayed her visa, despite her refugee status in Qatar.  The UNHCR says this is the first time Qatar has abruptly forced a deportation before they could find another resettlement country.

UNHCR says al-Obeidi is now in a Benghazi hotel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr102011

Qatari Leader Says Gadhafi Must Leave Power

Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the United States and NATO continue to enforce a no-fly zone over Moammar Gadhafi's Libya they are joined by one country with a tiny air force: Qatar.

The small but very rich country on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula was the first Arab county to join the U.N. effort to support the rebel forces in Libya. And while the Qataris are used to striking a delicate balance in the Middle East, the stakes have never been higher.

“We decided to take this position after we see that Gadhafi is using air force, using all the heavy artillery against his people,” Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin al-Thanisim al-Thani said on ABC's This Week.

Al-Thani is adamant that the Libyan conflict must end with Gadhafi’s removal.

"For us, the decision (to support the rebels) is as long as is necessary," he said. "The people of Libya and the international community will not accept any solution except that he leave power."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr012011

Man-Made Clouds to Shield World Cup Soccer Fans in Qatar's Heat?

Pixland/Thinkstock(DOHA, Qatar) -- With temperatures in the summer sometimes reaching 122 degrees Fahrenheit, government scientists in Qatar are working on ways to keep fans cool ahead of the 2022 World Cup, to be hosted in the country.

Some parts of the open-air stadiums will be cooled with solar-powered air-conditioning units, but the bottom line is that it’s still going to get very hot in the arenas as spectators sweat out the tournament, in more ways than one.  So Qatari scientists have come up with an idea for artificial clouds that will shield the fans from direct sunlight.

The plan is to develop zeppelin-like inflated platforms that move easily and are wind-resistant.  Since they’ll be filled with helium and made from ultra-light fabrics, these "clouds" -- at an estimated cost of $500,000 apiece -- will be about as light as the real ones, and can be moved as necessary to block the sun, providing shade to cover the whole stadium if necessary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec022010

Russia, Qatar to Host 2018 and 2022 World Cups

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ZURICH) -- FIFA's executive committee announced Thursday that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar will host the following tournament in 2022.

Russia beat out England and joint bids by Spain and Portugal, as well as the Netherlands and Belgium. Russia becomes the first Eastern European country to host the World Cup.

Qatar topped bids from the U.S., Australia, Japan and South Korea.  It becomes the smallest country and the first in the Middle East to host the event.

President Obama commented on the decision saying, "I think it was the wrong decision. But I continue to be optimistic that our team -- wherever we're playing -- is gonna make it to the finals the next time."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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