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Qatar stands firm, rejecting Arab demands as deadline looms

Qatar said Saturday it doesn’t fear any military retaliation for refusing to meet a Monday deadline to comply with a list of demands from four Arab states that have imposed a de-facto blockade on the Gulf nation.

During a visit to Rome, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani again rejected the demands as an infringement on Qatar’s sovereignty. He said any country is free to raise grievances with Qatar, provided they have proof, but said any such conflicts should be worked out through negotiation, not by imposing ultimatums.

“We believe that the world is governed by international laws, that don’t allow big countries to bully small countries,” he told a press conference. “No one has the right to issue to a sovereign country an ultimatum.

The Qatari government, under a Saudi-led blockade of its air, sea and land links, is unwilling to concede any demands that threaten its sovereignty or violate international law, said Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Thani.

The small Gulf emirate is prepared to let pass the deadline for complying with 13 demands set down by the bloc, including shutting the Al Jazeera television network and cutting back ties with Iran, he said Saturday in Rome, where he met with his Italian counterpart.

“There is no fear from our direction. We are ready to face the consequences,” Al Thani said. “There is an international law that should be respected and not violated.”

Al Thani repeated that Qatar is willing to sit down and negotiate under the right circumstances. The ultimatum issued June 23 was made to be rejected, he said.

Al Thani, in turn, accused the blockading nations of having ties to groups and individuals accused of terrorism.

“As for the countries that accuse Qatar of financing terrorism, they have the same problems as Qatar, more so, they are on top of the list in that area,” he said. “There are financial institutes in these countries involved in financing terrorist organization and financing terrorist operations in western countries.”

The coalition presented Qatar with its requirements to end the standoff after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the Saudi-led bloc to lay out its demands. In a statement on June 25, Tillerson conceded that Qatar would find it “very difficult” to comply with some of the requests.

On June 27, during a visit in Washington, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called the demands non-negotiable.

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