US envoy denies WikiLeaks cable on Qatar

March 24, 2011
By

Joseph LeBaron

The US ambassador to Doha has distanced himself from an alleged diplomatic cable, leaked by WikiLeaks, which says Qatar, one of the world’s richest countries, asked international oil companies for more than $1 billion (Dh3.6 billion) to help pay for a new medical centre.

In a letter to the Qatari daily The Peninsula, which harshly criticised the ambassador in its editorial on Wednesday, US Ambassador Joseph LeBaron, said the alleged cable did not emanate from the embassy.

“I read with great concern the editorial, ‘You Got It All Mixed Up, Mr. Ambassador’ in the March 23, 2011, issue of The Peninsula. The editorial prompted US Embassy staff to review, in its entirety, the record of reports and cables produced by the US Embassy since my arrival in Doha as ambassador on July 28, 2008,” ,” LeBaron wrote in his letter published by The Peninsula on its front page.

“Neither the purported cable on which the editorial was based, nor any other cable or report on this topic, was produced during my tenure here, my staff determined. Since the day I arrived nearly three years ago, I have worked assiduously to deepen the strong relationship between Qatar and the United States. I will continue to do so until the day I depart the State of Qatar, a country I have respected and admired ever since I first arrived in Doha over 30 years ago,” the ambassador wrote.

According to the alleged September 2008 cable reported by Reuters, “Qatar will soon – literally – have more money than it knows what to do with” and the appeal for huge donations to Sidra, the project championed by Shaikha Mouza “indicates that Shaikha Mouza is beginning to exert influence outside of her traditional lane of social/educational issues”.

In its critical editorial, The Peninsula said that “diplomats do often get things wrong, and US diplomats more often than not, if Washington’s policies in the Middle East are any indication”.

“Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world and does not need foreign aid for development projects on its own land. And it definitely knows how to spend its riches. Reconstruction projects in war-devastated Lebanon to Darfur, humanitarian aid from Tsunami-hit Indonesia to flood-hit Pakistan and even hurricane-hit New Orleans in the US are all testimony to that,” the paper wrote.

“But that’s not the point. The point is whether Qatar has a right to the social responsibility bucks that these corporations so proudly flaunt. The huge amount, between $1bn and $1.7bn (according to the cable), will not look so huge if you look at the massive operations these companies have in the country and if you look at the outlay of the project for which the Qatar Foundation has set up a $8bn endowment. Qatar is asking its own corporations to spend at least 2.5 per cent of their income on socially beneficial projects.

“As for the project’s nature, it clearly is both educational and social. And what’s wrong if Shaikha Mouza were to take up projects outside these spheres. The Arab world looks at her as a role model and Qatar is justly proud of her,” the editorial said.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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