Qatar sneaks out of ‘controversy’: French suburb fund postponed
PARIS - Qatar has postponed launching a fund for entrepreneurs from France's deprived suburbs until after the presidential election to prevent it becoming a political football, officials said Wednesday.
"We want this to happen peacefully and not amid controversy," said Kamal Hamza, an official in the Paris suburb of Courneuve who is president of ANELD, a group representing local officials from ethnic and religious minorities.
ANELD is due to participate in the disbursing of the fund.
Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has attacked Qatar for investing in what she said were "Muslim" areas of French cities and said that unnamed foreign countries wanted to develop Islamic fundamentalism in France.
The Qatari embassy in Paris was not immediately able to confirm when contacted that the emirate was postponing the launch of the 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund until after the two-round vote in April and May.
Gas-rich Qatar is a traditional French ally and provided vital Arab support to French and British-led efforts to get a UN mandate for military action to protect civilians during the eight-month uprising in Libya.
Qatar also gave military support to NATO-led operations in Libya, including deploying troops on the ground.