Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, seen here in 2009, has said he is in favor of sending Arab troops to Syria to "stop the killing" that has claimed more than 5,000 lives over the course of a 10-month revolt there. © Karim Jaafar - AFP/File
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
AFP
Last updated: January 14, 2012

Report: Emir of Qatar favors Arab troops in Syria

The emir of Qatar has said he is in favor of sending Arab troops to Syria to "stop the killing" that has claimed more than 5,000 lives during a 10-month revolt there.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani's interview with CBS news program "60 Minutes," which airs Sunday, is the first public call by an Arab leader for Arab troops to deploy to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's regime has maintained a brutal crackdown despite an observer mission in the country.

When asked whether he favors Arab nations intervening in Syria, the emir said: "For such a situation to stop the killing... some troops should go to stop the killing."

The interview with the Qatari leader, excerpts of which were sent to AFP by CBS ahead of the broadcast, comes amid increasing concern that a team of Arab observers to Syria to monitor conditions on the ground was failing, and as Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi warned that the mission could be suspended.

The influential emir once had cordial relations with Damascus, but in recent months has become one of the most vocal Arab critics of the Assad regime as the Syrian strongman has repeatedly failed to curb the bloodshed.

In August, Sheikh Hamad described the Syrian leadership's heavy-handed use of force against protesters as "fruitless," and urged serious reforms. The wealthy Gulf state then withdrew its ambassador from Damascus.

Qatar was also instrumental in getting the Arab League observers into Syria late last month, but Syrian opposition activists have expressed disappointment at the mission, with critics saying the mission has been outmaneuvered by the government in Damascus.

The opposition Muslim Brotherhood went so far as to accuse the mission of covering up "crimes of the Syrian regime."

The Arab League decided in Cairo on Saturday to reassess in one week's time its mission to Syria, following the recent criticism of its operations.

Much of the region has tuned in to broadcasts by Doha-based Al-Jazeera television to see images of the Arab observers in Syria.

The pan-Arab news channel, founded in 1996 and owned by Qatar's ruling family, has come under strong criticism by the Syrian authorities for its coverage of the popular uprising.

Al-Jazeera has also been seen as influencing the wider region through its comprehensive coverage of "Arab Spring" uprisings in the Middle East and northern Africa.

Al-Jazeera "caused us a lot of problems with the top people in the Arab countries," the emir told CBS, but he stopped short of saying the channel was directly responsible for the demise of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak or Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

He readily acknowledged Al-Jazeera's regional importance and how the channel has provided a platform for dissent in the Arab world, but seemed to downplay his own influence.

"We are supporting the people of those countries (who are) asking for justice and dignity," he said.

"If this (is) influence, I think this is a healthy influence. I think all the world should support this."

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