A US media report quoting the Saudi intelligence chief as mocking Qatar over its small population has drawn a stinging rebuke from Doha, underlining tensions between the two [Persian] Gulf Arab states over clashing foreign policies.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a veteran Saudi ambassador to Washington, had said at a meeting last summer that Qatar was "nothing more than 300 people ... and a TV channel" and "not a country," quoting a person familiar with the exchange.
The "TV channel" is Doha-based pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera, Al-Alam reported. Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya shot back in a Twitter message that became an instant sensation in the tiny [Persian] Gulf Arab state. "One Qatari citizen is worth an entire people and the Qatari people are equal to an entire nation," he wrote. "This is what we tell our sons, with all respect to the others," he added. The Qatari newspaper al-Sharq said the message was retweeted by more than 600 people in the first few hours, after a "hashtag insulting to Qatar (Qatar 300 people and a (TV) channel" spread on social media.
Qatar's Foreign Ministry confirmed the account belonged to Attiya but declined to make further comment, while Saudi officials were not immediately available. Qatar has become quieter on the foreign stage since veteran emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani stepped down in favor of his crown prince and son, Sheikh Tamim Khalifa al-Thani, in June.
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