Qatar’s head of state pledged that the 2022 World Cup will be held in the Middle Eastern nation in a confident and emotive speech Tuesday.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani told a sparsely attended summit in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh that Qatar would go ahead with plans to hold the FIFA showpiece despite anti-homosexuality laws, reported the AP.
On Sunday, a British study found that 65 percent of respondents reported at least one instance of abuse related to sexuality in the Persian Gulf. It also found that almost none of the reported cases was brought to police.
Sheikh Tamim described Qatar as a country with tolerance and an approach that is “firmly opposed to all forms of discrimination.”
“We are tolerant, welcoming and non-discriminatory,” he said. “Our differences are celebrated by people of all religions and beliefs.”
In his annual address at the start of the Arab League’s annual summit, Sheikh Tamim pledged that his country would “continue to grow stronger and become more secure with fewer problems.”
The ruler of Qatar criticized the Iranian regime for providing weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen, urging an Arab and international response.
The emir made his remarks on the same day the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that its commander-in-chief, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, was killed in a car crash.
Sheikh Tamim’s comments come as he faces multiple investigations into alleged corruption surrounding the World Cup.
In December, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke off diplomatic ties and halted imports from Qatar. The emirate is in a dispute with the four nations because of its policy of allowing foreign workers to own property.
Sheikh Tamim claimed that Qatar’s new law on forced labor would crack down on businesses and forced laborers to escape for economic and health reasons.
“The New Law on Forced Labor will provide for better protection to all workers, especially the most vulnerable ones,” he said.
Last year, the Qatar Foundation was ordered to stop describing itself as “government” and the national airline was ordered to be renamed Qatar Airways.
The battle for the hearts and minds of people in the region is expected to be a key focus of the Arab League summit.
Earlier Tuesday, the leader of Libya’s UN-backed government, Fayez Serraj, voiced his hopes that Qatar could provide Arab support during the current military operation against the Islamic State group in northeastern Libya.
Qatar could “play a role in raising the ambitions of Libya,” Serraj said.
He warned against a division of Libya as a country but said “there is no alternative for the Libyan people to liberate their own land and assume their right as a people.”
He added that he is worried that militias are using oil and gas resources from southern Libya for their own gain.