With eye on investment, emir of Qatar begins Britain visit

26th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The emir of Qatar starts a three-day state visit to Britain on Tuesday with a welcome from Queen Elizabeth II amid the regal splendour of Windsor Castle.

The 58-year-old Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his wife will stay at the queen's residence west of London after a procession by horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Windsor town.

The emir will hold talks with Prime Minister David Cameron later Tuesday after visiting the British parliament. Then Queen Elizabeth will host a state banquet in his honour at Windsor Castle.

On Wednesday, the emir will visit the stadium for the 2012 London Olympics and, with Qatar bidding to host the 2022 football World Cup, he will hold discussions with officials on England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

The oil- and gas-rich Gulf emirate has a growing influence in Britain, having acquired the landmark Harrods department store in London in May for a reported 1.5 billion pounds (2.4 billion dollars, 1.7 billion euros).

Qatar also has a 6.8 percent stake in British banking giant Barclays and a 25.9 percent share in the Sainsbury's supermarket chain.

The emir said ahead of the visit he was interested in investing in Christie's auction house in a tie-up linked to Qatar's new museum of Islamic art.

"We are building a museum and it (Christie's) has links with the stuff we are collecting for our museum," he told the Financial Times newspaper.

"It depends on the opportunity -- if we had a good opportunity we would not hesitate."

© 2010 AFP

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