Riyadh recalls ambassador from Qatar over Al-Jazeera row

Published September 30th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Riyadh has decided to recall its ambassador to Qatar for consultation, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. Acrimony between the neighboring Gulf states had arisen over broadcasts in the Doha-based Al-Jazeera satellite television station, perceived by Riyadh as critical of the Saudi royal family. 


Both controversial and highly popular, the Arabic Al-Jazeera news channel was set up in 1996. Although privately held, the station in not fully independent from the Qatari government. With over 35 million viewers throughout the world, it is also the most popular satellite TV channel in Saudi Arabia.  


In July this year, Saudi opposition cleric Mohsen Al-Awaji found a platform for his criticism of Crown Prince Abdullah's peace initiative on an Al-Jazeera debate. During the live broadcast of the Al-Ittijah Al-Muakes (Opposite Direction) program, he charged the Saudi monarchy of betraying the Palestinian cause reported the BBC.  


In retaliation, Saudi media has blasted the Al-Jazeera channel for giving Israeli officials a platform to voice their views, dubbing it "a Zionist instrument".  


The same program also managed to rub Qatar’s Western neighbor the wrong way just last week, after airing “offensive remarks” made by a Bahraini dissident who argued that the ongoing democratization process in the kingdom was "only cosmetic,” reported Gulf News


In late August, the Jordanian government closed Al-Jazeera's office in Amman and recalled its ambassador for consultation, saying Jazeera had portrayed the kingdom's rulers as "puppets of the United States and Israel," IPS reported. 


The Gulf emirate of Qatar occupies a tiny peninsula attached to the powerful kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members have only recently concluded an agreement, which put an end to a decades’ old border dispute.  


While Qatar sits atop the world’s third largest gas reserves, its southern neighbor is home to a quarter of the world's oil reserves and is the world’s largest producer of oil. — (albawaba.com) 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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