Obama to meet Qatar ruler at White House on Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will meet the ruler of Qatar at the White House on Thursday, holding talks with an influential Arab supporter on Libya and a key ally in a region that has been jolted by popular unrest.

“The President looks forward to discussing a range of issues with the Emir, including the recent developments in the Middle East and Qatar’s leadership in the international effort to protect Libyan civilians,” the White House said on Sunday.

Obama’s meeting with Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani comes after the president dispatched his national security adviser Tom Donilon to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for talks.

U.S. backing of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa, which have ousted autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia since erupting in January, has unsettled some of Washington’s long-time allies in the region.

The United States is also playing a central role in United Nations and Arab League-backed military action to protect Libyan civilians against attacks from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.

Qatar’s planes are helping to enforce the no-fly zone above Libya, and it was the fist Arab nation to recognize the Libyan rebels as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Paul Simao)

Obama to meet Qatar ruler at White House on Thursday