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Qatar points finger at 'hostile' US media after hack row

Qatar moved to play down a rift with its Gulf Arab neighbours who reacted harshly to leaked comments by the emir
Qatar's foreign minister, Mohammed al-Thani, said the country "is always in favour of maintaining strong and brotherly relations with GCC' (AFP)

Qatar is being targeted by a "hostile" campaign - particularly in the US media - its foreign minister said, a day after the Gulf state accused hackers of attributing false remarks to the emir on state media.

"There is a hostile media campaign against the State of Qatar, which we will confront," Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said, adding the campaign was "particularly in the United States".

Thani said there were 13 opinion articles "focused on Qatar" in US media in the last five weeks.

On the day of the hack, "a conference on Qatar convened without us attending while the authors of those articles were there," he said.

"Is this a coincidence?"

However, Thani played down fears of a rift with fellow Gulf Arab states, who reacted harshly to the leaked comments.

"Qatar is always in favour of maintaining strong and brotherly relations with GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries," he said.

"In Riyadh we had very positive discussions about the relationship between Gulf countries," he added, referring to talks in the Saudi capital.

On Wednesday, Qatar said it had launched an inquiry into the security breach.

Publication of the fake story, which hit Qatar's official news agency website and Twitter account just after midnight on Wednesday, led to ripples of reaction across the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE both blocked Qatari-based news outlets, including Al Jazeera, from broadcasting in their territory in the wake of the stories' appearance.

The Qatari state television's nightly newscast on Tuesday showed clips of the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, at an official military ceremony with a scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen showing the alleged remarks. 

They included calling Hamas "the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people", as well as saying Qatar had "strong relations" with Iran and Israel.

"Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it," the ticker read at one point. "It is a big power in the stabilisation of the region."

Also mentioned were alleged "tensions" between Qatar and the administration of the US president, Donald Trump.

In addition, the Qatar News Agency's hacked Twitter account carried a false story in Arabic apparently from the foreign minister about Qatar withdrawing its ambassadors from several nearby countries.

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