Qatar Denies Plans To Expel Hamas Leader

DOHA, Qatar (AP) -

Qatar’s top diplomat on Monday dismissed as “just rumors” an Israeli claim that the Gulf nation agreed to expel a Hamas leader, saying he is a “dear guest” of the energy-rich country.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry last week issued a statement saying it welcomed Qatar’s decision to expel Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashaal to Turkey. It said the Qatari decision came after heavy diplomatic pressure from Israel.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah denied there were any such plans.

“These are just rumors that are targeted at changing Qatar’s policies toward the Palestinian people. Khaled Meshaal is a dear guest in Qatar and he is in his country,” he told reporters.

An Israeli official last week said his government had received word from “official channels” that Qatar had ordered Mashaal’s expulsion.

Israel used to have a trade office in Qatar — effectively a diplomatic outpost — but that was ordered closed following the 2008 Israeli conflict with Hamas. It still maintains low-level relations with the country.