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Emirati ambassador: US should rethink the airbase in Qatar

WASHINGTON – The United States, consider moving the air base out of Qatar, the Emirates, the U.S. ambassador said on Tuesday, boosting the Trump administration to use the leverage to further push Qatar’s alleged support for extremism.

If the Persian Gulf crisis enters its second week, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba of the United Arab Emirates, said Qatar’s neighbors, “rather quickly” to give the U.S. a list of specific actions in Qatar must take criminal steps to be eliminated. He said that the list would probably be Qatari sanctions on the bank accounts of individuals, that Qatar is the neighbors have already been punished — and possibly the banks themselves.

“We already have enough of. We have enough of” Otaiba said.

In their attempt to isolate Qatar, by the cutting off of diplomatic ties, the united arab emirates, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries were encouraged by President Donald Trump, who has loudly resounded their allegations that Qatar funds terrorist groups, and foments instability in the middle east. UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba said his country and the U.S. had allowed “bad behavior” by Qatar to continue for “a very long time.”

“If I want to be honest, I think that the reason that the action is not taken against Qatar because of the airbase,” Otaiba said, referring to al-Udeid air base, not far from Doha. “The base is a very nice insurance against any extra pressure.”

Home to some of the 10,000 AMERICAN troops, the base has emerged as a flashpoint in the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours, the worst in the Persian Gulf in the year. The forward headquarters of the U.S. army, the Central Command is a staging point for the U. S. air campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

“Maybe there is someone in Congress must have a hearing and just say, you know, ‘we Should consider to move?'” Otaiba said. “And maybe not moving the entire base. Maybe just to distribute them to different countries, so you do not put all your eggs in one basket.”

Otaiba told reporters that the united arab emirates is not told that the US consider the move of the base, but is “willing to have that conversation.” And he suggested American troops could be moved to his country, instead of. Pointing to the new defense cooperation, the U.S. and the united arab emirates signed last month, Otaiba said: “the infrastructure is in place” to the call, if the US wanted to move.

The US already has some troops in the united arab emirates. The Pentagon has said that the new document “provides the U.S. army with the ability to seamlessly respond to a range of scenarios in and around the UAE, if necessary.”

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar last week, accusing it of backing terrorism and promoting policies that destabilize the region. Qatar denies those allegations. Trump offered state Secretary Rex Tillerson to help mediate a resolution, but other countries, including Kuwait, are also involved.

Otaiba said the upcoming list of requirements would centre on the three complaints about Qatari behavior: support for terrorism, interference in internal affairs, and the use of state-backed media to attack neighbors.

He said that the list would likely include the expulsion of terrorists from Qatar and the exiting or curtailing of Qatar-funded media, that the attack of the united arab emirates and others. He said al-Jazeera, the Qatari-backed television network that has drawn particular consternation from Qatar’s neighbours would probably be on the list of problems Qatar address would have to address.

The Emirati diplomat said that his country was hearing only the support of the White House on the road against Qatar, despite Tillerson’s call for the united arab emirates and others, to illuminate the steps they took to isolate Qatar.

“That will not happen,” Otaiba said.

Still, he said he did not foresee the crisis becoming a military conflict, even as Qatar refused to bow to the demands. Even if Qatar accepts the list of requirements, Otaiba said that she would have had to comply with specific steps over a period of time to show seriousness for the countries would repair ties with the small, gas-rich country.

“There will be an escalation of economic pressure” unless Qatar changes course, Otaiba said.

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Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

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Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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