Qatar accuses sheikh of ordering countering coup


QATAR'S Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad ibn Jassem al Thani, yesterday accused the exiled former emir of ordering a failed counter coup against the son who seized power from him last year.

Sheikh Khalifa ibn Hamad al Thani, who is living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), gave the green light for Saturday's aborted coup against the new emir, Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa al Thani, the Minister alleged.

The coup was condemned by France, Britain, Oman and the secretary general of the Gulf Co operation Council (GCC) - which groups Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain.

"Weapons that were smuggled in have been seized as well as subversion plans," Sheikh Hamad ibn Jassem said in an interview. But he added: "Not one shot was fired."

He said Sheikh Khalifa may also have had the support of some Gulf Arab states. "The first confessions show that the plotters were foreigners.

"We know the limits of Sheikh Khalifa's team. That's why he needed help from foreigners and we hope the (plotters) don't come from brother countries," the Minister said.

The minister declined to identify the states suspected but political sources who asked not to be named said that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were implicated in the plot.

In Muscat, the Omani news agency said the GCC states were holding "intensive consultations" to prepare for an emergency meeting which Qatar had asked for: to brief them on the coup.

Qatar announced it would soon hold joint military manoeuvres with the United States, but added the exercises were in line with a defence agreement reached after the 1991 Gulf War after the Foreign Minister held talks with the US ambassador, Mr Patrick Theros.

Sheikh Khalifa, who has been living in Abu Dhabi since December, toured Gulf and other Arab states in December and January to try to drum up support for a return to power.

He was accorded honours in each capital but none gave him public support.

Qatar, a small oil producer in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is trying to lure foreign investment to develop one of the world's largest gas reserves.