Qatar emir goes back to school on Britain visit

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The emir of Qatar went back to school on Thursday as he visited his former military college at the culmination of a three-day state visit to Britain.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, 58, returned to the Royal Military Academy at Sandurst, the elite army officer training college which he graduated from in 1971.

The visit to Sandhurst, southwest of London, which counts British Princes William and Harry among its recent graduates, came after he bade farewell to Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.

Nepalese Gurkha soldiers stood on parade and the emir took the salute at Sandhurst.

Earlier, the queen said goodbye to Sheikh Hamad and Sheikha Mozah, one of his three wives, after a trip aimed at bolstering the booming trade relations between the two countries, which are both bidding to host the football World Cup.

The Qatari couple stayed at Windsor Castle, west of London, the largest inhabited castle in the world, which the queen considers home.

In her state banquet speech on Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth said she was delighted that the emir was revisiting Sandhurst.

"As you will recollect, the motto of the academy is 'Serve to Lead'," she said.

"I believe that these words fittingly describe your own approach to the responsibilities of leadership; the promotion of peace, the encouragement of education and culture, and your far-sighted and enlightened plans for the future of your country as an open and tolerant society."

On Wednesday, the emir visited the main stadium for the 2012 London Olympics and held talks with officials about England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Qatar is bidding to stage the 2022 tournament.

The chief of the joint bid by Spain and Portugal to stage the 2018 tournament on Thursday denied allegations it was colluding with Qatar in the scandal-plagued bidding process.

England, Spain-Portugal and a joint bid from the Netherlands and Belgium are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup. For 2022, the contenders are Australia, Japan, Qatar, Russia and South Korea.

Meanwhile Thursday, Sheikha Mozah visited the British Library in London to sign a memorandum of understanding which will make tens of thousands of Gulf-related documents held by the library available online.

The oil- and gas-rich Gulf emirate has a growing influence in Britain, having snapped up 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, as well as substantial investments in some of London's most prestigious real estate.

© 2010 AFP

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