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Qatar rules out departure from Gulf Cooperation Council

QATAR RULES OUT DEPARTURE FROM GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Thursday ruled out any possibility of the country's withdrawal from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), reiterating Qatar's commitment to Gulf security.

In comments published by Qatari daily Al-Sharq, the FM also said his country would not extradite Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the Doha-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, who is wanted by the Egyptian authorities.

"He is not a 'terrorist' but a political dissident with a point of view," Al Thani said. "We have several such individuals from many countries, not just from Egypt."

"In Qatar," he added, "we don't allow them to carry out any political activities or to use Qatar as a platform for offending or attacking their countries."

He also noted that Qatar had not withdrawn its roughly $20 billion worth of investments in Egypt "because these investments help the Egyptian people and contribute to job creation and economic growth".

"Qatar believes that if Egypt is strong it will have a positive impact on the Arab world," he added.

Al Thani went on to describe the GCC as "an important source of stability in the region".

Qatar, he continued, "will remain committed to Gulf security despite the fact that the boycotting countries" -- a reference to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates -- "have put the GCC at risk by violating its founding principles".

He went on, however, to urge GCC member states "to respect the sovereignty of fellow council members".

He also reiterated his country's readiness to hold dialogue -- without preconditions -- to discuss the demands of the countries arrayed against it.

"But before dialogue, the blockade [on Qatar] must be lifted," he added.

In June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain abruptly severed relations with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups in the region and cozying up to Iran.

The four countries also imposed an embargo on Qatar and presented it with a list of demands, including one for the closure of Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

Qatar, for its part, vociferously denies allegations that it supports terrorism, describing moves to isolate it by its fellow GCC members as a violation of international law.

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