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Qatar says had no contact with Syrian govt

AFP , Wednesday 4 Dec 2013
Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Khalifa (Photo: Reuters)
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Qatar has stressed it has had no direct or indirect contact with Syria's regime, as the head of Lebanon's pro-Syria Hezbollah movement said he had received an envoy from Doha.

"Qatar does not have any direct or indirect contacts with the Syrian regime," said the foreign ministry in a statement late Tuesday, stressing support for the armed opposition.

Doha's "sole link is with the legitimate representative of the (Syrian) people, which is the National Coalition," it said in a statement carried by QNA state news agency.

The statement was part of another summing up the talks between the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Khalifa, and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who visited Doha on Monday.

But it coincided with a statement by Hezbollah's chief Hasan Nasrallah, who said in an interview aired late Tuesday on the Lebanese OTV channel that he had received a Qatari envoy in the "past few days".

"Qatar is probably revisiting its position and strategy in the region," Nasrallah said according to the Lebanese Assafir daily.

Iran-backed Hezbollah has been actively involved in the Syrian conflict, sending fighters into the neighbouring country to defend the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels.

The Qatari statement said the emir told Zarif that Doha "stands by the Syrian people's side and its just demands," while it "would welcome a political solution that guarantees this people's legitimate rights."

The emir also stressed that Doha welcomes the Syria peace conference that will be held in Geneva on January 22 as a "preliminary step towards a comprehensive solution that would achieve regional stability".

Qatar has been a strong backer of the uprising against Assad, which erupted in March 2011 and has claimed 126,000 lives so far.

But doubts have been cast over the continuity of Doha's role after the former emir, sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa surprisingly abdicated in June, and former premier and foreign minister, sheikh Hamad bin Jassim was replaced.

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