DUBAI, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Arab leaders must be open to reform and listen to their peoples so that issues can be resolved without “conflict or protest”, Qatar’s prime minister said in a televised interview on Sunday.
“Reform is not wrong -- what’s wrong is staying as you are and being arrogant at this time,” Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani told Al Arabiya at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, two days after the capture and killing of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
“Nothing happens in an Arab country, or any country around the world, without there being a smart Arab leader who learns lessons and tries to reform.”
Since uprisings began 10 months ago, the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have been toppled, while Syria and Yemen continue to see mass demonstrations against autocratic rule.
Qatar, along with other rich Gulf countries, have mostly been spared such protests thanks to cradle-to-grave benefits for their smaller populations.
Qatar, ruled by the al-Thani Sunni monarchy for more than a century, was a key backer of tribal forces fighting against Gaddafi and has an influential voice in the Arab world, thanks to the Doha-based Al Jazeera and to its mediation efforts.
“It is in (our) interests for there to be intellectual and rational openness to any idea for reform that can benefit (our) countries,” said Sheikh Hamad, a distant cousin of Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
At the same time, Sheikh Hamad cautioned that violence was not the best way to bring about change.
“We sympathise with all Arab countries and hope that this issue can be solved between governments and their people without going into conflict or protest,” he said.
In Bahrain, a Gulf island nation near Qatar, the Sunni-ruled monarchy crushed protests in February and March led mainly by majority Shi‘ites demanding better access to jobs and benefits.
Al Jazeera kept mostly silent on the protests, and last month its chief Waddah Khanfar’s stepped down, a sudden departure seen as a sign that the Qatar-backed broadcaster was toning down its coverage of regional unrest. (Reporting By Nour Merza)