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Qatari PM denies visas halted for Lebanese Shiites
Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani  speaks at the first "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis on February 24, 2012. (AFP/FETHI BELAID)
Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani speaks at the first "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis on February 24, 2012. (AFP/FETHI BELAID)
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BEIRUT: Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani denied Wednesday that his country has stopped granting visas to Lebanese Shiites over Hezbollah's stance vis-à-vis the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“This is not true, these are just rumors,” the Qatari PM said in an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, in response to a question as to whether or not Lebanese Shiites are being denied visas and work permits.

As for his country’s ties with Hezbollah, Thani, who is also Qatar's foreign minister, said, “Ties with Hezbollah are not bad; however, we have different points of view regarding the developments in Syria.”

“At any rate, our official ties with Lebanon are through the Lebanese State, and not any party,” he added.

Asked whether his country, had it known how matters would turn out, would have still helped Lebanon in the rebuilding process following the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, the PM said, “We don’t regret any stance.”

“I know that if what happened in 2006 is repeated today, the Qatari Emir would adopt the same stance in support of Lebanon, despite all the disparities in points of view with Hezbollah.”

Qatar played a major role in rebuilding Lebanon after the 2006 summer war.

Thani indicated that Qatar has always supported Lebanon and the resistance in the United Nations, and that this is a “constant and unchanging” stance.

The PM also pointed out that his country always had special ties with Syria, but said that this “will not be at the expense of the Syrian people.”

“For all those who disagree with our stances regarding the Syrian revolt, whether inside or outside Lebanon, we say history will be the judge in the matter,” he added.

Qatar has voiced its backing for the Syrian revolt, which erupted in mid-March 2011. Hezbollah supports the Syrian regime.

The death toll 18 months into the Syrian conflict has risen to more than 27,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on the accounts of activists on the ground. The United Nations puts the toll at 20,000.

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