MENA Conference Starts in a Strong [Archives:1997/46/Local News]

November 17 1997

By: Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, from Doha, Qatar.
His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khlifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, kicked off the 4th Middle East and North Africa Conference (MENA), yesterday, Sunday November 16th. The 2000-strong participants include some 40 foreign ministers and senior delegates representing 66 countries. ” This conference is an important milestone in the confidence-building measures in the Middle East peace process,” the Emir said. He was indirectly responding to criticism from some Arab governments that decided to stay away from the conference. “The people of the Arabian Peninsula have long been known for their generosity and hospitality. Hosting this gathering is our way of contributing to peace and regional harmony. It is our fulfilment of a commitment made to the world community.” The upbeat mood is not limited to the senior officials. Even the young Qatari men and women mobilized to assist in the process feel they have a mission to complete. “We feel that this is a test for us. We have to succeed,” said a young man from the foreign ministry. Even ordinary Qataris support the government in the effort. According to surveys printed by the local media, the people back their government. The 800 or so companies participating in the conference look forward to concluding important business deals. Already several contracts have been signed between Jordanian, Qatari, Israeli, American, European, and Far Eastern companies yesterday. Many more are expected. Given the positive environment and optimistic mood that prevails in the conference, it is clear that the boycott effort has not been able to frustrate and demoralize the host country or the participants. Yemen Time will report extensively on the conference once it is concluded.