Washington: US President Barack Obama on Thursday poured praise on the Emir of Qatar, saying in Oval Office talks that the international coalition in Libya would have been impossible without Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s leadership.
Obama also thanked Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani for his role in supporting democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, in a sign of an increasing convergence of interests between Washington and Doha.
"I expressed to him my appreciation of the leadership that the emir has shown when it comes to democracy in the Middle East," Obama said.
"We would not have been able to shape the kind of broad-based international coalition that includes not only our NATO members and also includes Arab states without the Emir`s leadership," he said.
"He is motivated by a belief that the Libyan people should have the rights and freedoms of all people."
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were the only Arab states to participate in military operations in Libya despite the Arab League`s support for a no-fly zone to prevent Muammar Gaddafi from harming civilians.
On Wednesday, Qatar hosted a meeting of the International Contact Group on Libya, and attracted a riposte from the Tripoli government, which accused the emirate of supplying anti-tank missiles to rebels.
Obama also said the Emir had offered him insight on the wave of political revolt in the Middle East and that they also discussed joint efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
The President also joked that though he would be an ex-president by then, he hoped he could get good seats for the 2022 World Cup Finals, which will be hosted by Qatar.
The Emir told Obama that his priority was "the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and how to find a way to establish a Palestinian state”.
"We do understand your position Mr President in supporting the existence of two states living side by side and we support your position."
The Emir and Obama discussed the Middle East as pressure mounts on Obama to make a new attempt to unblock Israeli-Palestinian talks which broke down last year due to a row over settlements.
Separately, House of Representatives speaker John Boehner said on Thursday that he had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give an address to a joint session of Congress in May.
Qatar and the United States have growing diplomatic and economic links and there is a large US airbase in the Qatari desert.