Al Jazeera suspends Egypt channel as Doha, Cairo mull closer ties

CAIRO (Reuters) - Qatari-owned Al Jazeera suspended broadcast of its Egypt-focused channel on Monday, citing a product restructuring, as Doha and Cairo seek to mend ties that deteriorated last year after the army toppled elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

The logo of Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news channel is seen in Doha February 7, 2011. REUTERS/ Fadi Al-Assaad

Qatar was one of the main supporters of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood during their year in power. Ties between Egypt and Qatar have been strained since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Mursi in July 2013 after protests against his rule.

Cairo has accused Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for the now-banned Brotherhood - which it denies - and security forces closed its offices in the Egyptian capital hours after Mursi’s ouster.

But the network continued to broadcast its Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr (AJMM), which covered daily protests by supporters of the Brotherhood, from Doha, irritating Egypt’s leaders.

The decision to end those broadcasts follows a meeting on Saturday between Sisi, who has since won a presidential election, and a special envoy of the emir of Qatar. The meeting was the latest step in a Saudi-brokered effort to repair relations.

Saudi King Abdullah last month called on Egypt to back a deal under which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to end an eight-month diplomatic dispute over Qatar’s support for the Brotherhood and promotion of “Arab Spring” revolts.

Sisi has also suggested that he is considering pardoning three Al Jazeera journalists currently jailed on charges of aiding a “terrorist organization” by spreading lies.

Qatar is seen to have been supportive of the Brotherhood in Egypt, the UAE, and more recently Libya. It had given sanctuary to some Brotherhood members but in September asked seven senior figures from the group to leave, following months of pressure from its neighbors.

Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia all list the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and see political Islam as a threat to their own systems of rule.

Al Jazeera said it was rolling AJMM into a new channel reporting live events from around the world, not just Egypt.

“AJMM has meanwhile temporarily ceased broadcasting until such time as necessary permits are issued for its return to Cairo in coordination with the Egyptian authorities,” it said in a statement.

Reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo and Amena Bakr in Doha; Writing by Stephen Kalin, Editing by Lin Noueihed