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AFP reports on IRI Meetings in Qatar

February 12, 2004
Three Doha gatherings to focus on regional reform

The Gulf state of Qatar, a close US ally, will host three conferences starting Saturday that will focus on efforts to open up the region politically and economically.

In the first, a workshop bringing together some 80 women activists from the Gulf and other Arab countries will focus on managing electoral campaigns.

The February 14-17 meeting is organized by the Washington-based International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute.

A number of Qatari women have said they plan to run in elections to a Shura (Consultative) Council expected to be held later this year. Two-thirds of the 45 members of the proposed council will be elected and the rest appointed by Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

The second conference, to be held on February 15-19, will look into human rights in curricula taught in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting is organized by Qatari education authorities in conjunction with the UN Human Rights Commission, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

And on February 16, the emir of the gas-rich state will open the two-day "Doha Development Forum 2004" in the presence of hundreds of academics and experts, in addition to world figures such as former US vice president Al Gore and former South African president F.W. de Klerk.

Themes that will be tackled by speakers at the forum, organized by Qatar's foreign ministry and Planning Council, include the changing role of government and ways of adapting to a changing world economy.