Qatar's emir has changed the country's anti-terrorism laws in an apparent move to counter charges by its neighbors that it supports terrorism. In a speech to the nation, the emir said he was "ready to talk."
In his first speech since a diplomatic row broke out in the region, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that Qatar was committed to fighting terrorism "not because it wants to please others but because it believes" in doing so.
He also stressed that he valued earlier attempts by Kuwait, Turkey and the United States to try to resolve the crisis, highlighting the importance of dialogue to resolve issues:
"The time has come for us to spare the people from the political differences between the governments," the emir said in his televised speech Friday. He added that he was ready for dialogue but any solution to the Gulf crisis "must respect Qatar's sovereignty."
Earlier, Qatar announced amendments to its anti-terror legislation, one of the core issues underlying the crisis in the Gulf.
The state news agency QNA reported that a royal decree issued by the emir set rules for defining terrorism, acts of terrorism and the financing of terrorism. It also created two national terrorism lists and established rules for including individuals and groups on each list, QNA said.
The legislative changes, which amend a 2004 anti-terrorism law, come after Qatar signed an accord with the United States to combat terror funding - an agreement that the Gulf nation's neighbors, who accuse Doha of supporting terrorism, claim does not go far enough.
Major political crisis
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt placed a boycott on the emirate on June 5 over the allegations.
They also imposed sanctions on Doha, as well as presenting a list of 13 demands that Qatar has so far refused to meet, calling them unrealistic. They include closing the broadcaster Al-Jazeera and reducing Doha's diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia's arch-rival, Iran.
The political crisis, the worst to affect the region for years, erupted following the release of an alleged QNA state agency news report at the end of May in which Sheikh Tamim was quoted as having made positive comments about Iran and the militant Palestinian organization Hamas.
On Thursday, Qatar claimed that the report was fake and had been put on the QNA website by a hacker from the United Arab Emirates. The same account was given on Sunday in the newspaper "Washington Post," which cited information from US intelligence sources.
The UAE has vehemently dismissed the Washington Post story as a fabrication.
The defiant Emir
Despite making certain concessions , the emir remained somewhat defiant in his speech, saying that life in Qatar had continued as usual despite the recent sanctions against the state, which he referred to as "the siege," and that he was going to further facilitate investments in the Gulf nation,with the government removing obstacles to economic expansion.
The emir also stressed that any long-term solution to the crisis would require "respect" for "Qatar's sovereignty."
ss/jm (AFP, Reuters)