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Qatar recalls envoy to Cairo after Egyptian suggests Gulf state 'is supportive of terrorism'

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar said Thursday it has recalled its ambassador to Cairo to protest comments made by an Egyptian official over his country's decision to carry out air strikes in neighboring Libya.

The spat marks a new flare-up in tensions between the wealthy Gulf state and Egypt under the leadership of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Qatar said in a brief statement it was withdrawing the envoy "for consultations" in response to comments made by the Egyptian delegate to the Arab League, Tarek Adel.

Egyptian state news agency MENA quoted Adel as saying that Arab League permanent representatives expressed support for Egypt's air strikes this week against Islamic State militants in Libya as part of its right to self-defense. It added that only Qatar "deviated" from the Arab consensus, with Adel accusing Qatar of continuously taking positions against Egypt.

"According to our reading in Egypt of the Qatari reservation, it is evident that Qatar is revealing its position that it is supportive of terrorism," he said, according to the news agency.

Egypt's air strikes followed the posting of an online video showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by militants loyal to the Islamic State in Libya.

Qatar is a member of the U.S.-led coalition conducting air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The Qatari Foreign Ministry's director of Arab affairs, Saad bin Ali al-Mohannadi, said in a separate statement carried by the official Qatar News Agency that Qatar strongly condemns the killing of the 21 Egyptians but denounces what he called Adel's "tense statement, which confuses the need to combat terrorism and the brutal killing and burning of civilians."

Al-Mohannadi added that Qatar supports the will of the Egyptian people and the country's stability but had reservations about Egypt's decision to take unilateral military action.

Relations between Cairo and Doha have been strained since el-Sissi led the military's ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. Qatar was a strong supporter of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group.

The head of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Qatar, said it was false to suggest that Qatar supports terrorism. Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani said the allegations "ignore the truth" and the efforts Doha makes alongside its GCC partners of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates in fighting terrorism and extremism.

"Such statements do not assist in consolidating Arab solidarity at a time when our Arab nations are exposed to great challenges that threaten our security, stability and sovereignty," al-Zayani said in a statement Thursday.


Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb in Cairo and Abdullah al-Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia contributed to this report.


Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/adamschreck.

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