Qatar's emir in Spain to boost economic ties

AFP, Monday 25 Apr 2011

Spain hopes World Cup construction contracts and a multibillion investment pledge from the gulf state will help its beleaguered economy

The emir of Qatar arrived in Madrid on Monday on a visit to boost economic ties between the oil-rich Gulf state and Spain, which is seeking new investments to shore up its battered economy.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, lunched with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia at the royal palace of Zarazuela outside Madrid following their arrival.

On Tuesday, he is to hold talks over lunch with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, after which several agreements will be signed, Spanish media reported.

The three-day visit follows a trip to the tiny Gulf state by Zapatero in March during which he received pledges of some 3.0 billion euros ($4.4 billion) in investments, some of which would go to Spain's ailing savings banks.

Days later, Spanish power giant Iberdrola said that Qatari investment fund Qatar Holding would buy a 6.16 per cent stake in the group for 2.2 billion euros.

Spain is also interested in investment opportunities for its construction companies raised by Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup, the business daily Cinco Dias reported.

Spain is battling to rein in its massive public deficit and convince nervous markets that it will not require an international bailout similar to that requested by neighbour Portugal this month and granted to Greece and Ireland last year.

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