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Mon 29 Jul 2002 04:00 AM

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Al Jazeera row causes Saudi Al Watan to attack Qatari FM

The Saudi daily newspaper, Al Watan has publicly attacked Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, in response to a show aired on Al Jazeera.

In a move that could strain already tense diplomatic relations, the Saudi daily newspaper, Al Watan has publicly attacked Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani.The latest attack comes after Saudi newspapers on July 20 called on Qatar to "reconsider its policies." Al Watan, a controversial Saudi paper, went further, calling the Qatari foreign minister a "dwarf" and a “smart aleck boy”, and accusing him of openly dealing with Israel. “Hamad bin Jassem chose the wrong door in history,” Al-Watan said in a sharp and biting editorial. The daily added that, “Hamad bin Jassem is trying to enter from the door accorded to big personalities and he is small, and if he wants to compare himself to big personalities and let loose Al Jazeera on those whose opinions differ with his, he will fail. His positions are wrong and contrary to history.”Saudi Arabia won't accept anything less than an apology from the Qatari government, a senior Saudi foreign ministry official told The Associated Press. Saudi criticism comes after a now infamous live programme aired on Al Jazeera June 25. Participants on the talk show, including Saudi dissident Mohsen al-Awaji, criticised Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's Middle East peace initiative, which attempted to put a halt to the escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israel in March and April 2002. Awaji accused the kingdom of "betraying the Palestinian cause." Participants in the show also made derogatory comments about the kingdom's founder, King Abdul Aziz Al Saud.ITP.net was told that Mohamed Jasem Al Ali, general manager of the network was out of the country and the only person who could comment on the show was the chief editor, Ibrahim Mahmoud Hilal whom when contacted, said that only Mohamed Jasem Al Ali was authorised to comment on matters relating to the show. Bahrain banned the Qatari based Al Jazeera network in May 2002 from covering municipal elections labelling it as “serving Zionism.”Prince Bandar bin Khaled al Faisal, son of the late King Khaled, is one of the directors on the board of Al Watan.

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