LONDON (Reuters) - The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is expected to reject allegations that his country is funding Islamic State (IS) militants during a three-day state visit to Britain which began on Tuesday.
Sheikh Tamim’s first official visit to Britain since becoming emir in 2013 will include talks with Prime Minister David Cameron and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth.
Qatar is one of the world’s richest countries and has invested heavily in British firms and property. Amongst its investments are London’s tallest building, the Shard, which was funded by the Qatari royal family, and the upmarket Harrods department store which is owned by sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority.
However British media reports in the run-up to the trip have focussed on long-running allegations from neighbouring Gulf Arab states that Qatar is using its vast oil and gas wealth to back Islamists across the Middle East.
A German cabinet minister accused Qatar in August of financing Islamic State militants and the United States has expressed concern about funding by individuals or charities in Arab states, although Qatar has since joined in U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.
In September Sheikh Tamim said his country was not aiding Islamic State in Iraq or Syria, telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that his own country’s security was jeopardised by the militants.
Nevertheless, British lawmakers have called for Cameron to raise the issue when he meets Sheikh Tamim on Wednesday. Cameron’s official spokesman said tackling extremism was likely to feature on the agenda during their discussion.
Britain drafted a diplomatic initiative aimed at curbing the funds to radical fighters in Iraq and Syria which won unanimous backing at the U.N. Security Council in August. The resolution threatened sanctions against any country found to be trading directly or indirectly with Islamic State.
Sheikh Tamim, who graduated from Britain’s Sandhurst military academy in 1998, is also likely to face questions about the abuse of migrant workers helping the country prepare to host the 2022 football World Cup. Qatar says it has acted to improve conditions and workers’ rights.
“There will be no issues that are off the table,” Cameron’s spokesman said.
Editing by Dominic Evans