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Qatar joins French-speaking club

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18:24 CEST+02:00
France on Tuesday justified a decision to admit Gulf state Qatar into a bloc of French-speaking nations as an associate member, arguing that the country was committed to popularising the language.

Despite Qatar having Arabic as its only official language, and despite the fact that it was a British protectorate until 1971, foreign ministry deputy spokesman Vincent Floreani insisted that the Gulf country's place in the French speaking bloc would be appropriate:

"Qatar has done many things to earn this. There are very basic reasons to justify its presence in the heart of Francophonie," he said.

Floreani said Qatar, which was admitted to the group at the 14th Francophonie summit held in the Congolese capital Kinshasa at the weekend, was "committed to strengthening French".

He said French was being taught in public schools from this year's term and added that a French-language radio station had been launched in Doha in 2010. 

The Francophonie has 57 member states, three associate members and 19 observers.

Some participants had voiced objections to Qatar's entry on the grounds that it was trying to gain inroads into Muslim zones of French-speaking Africa and funding religious schools there.

A source said there had been very tough negotiations on Qatar but the Qataris "had lobbied very effectively among member nations, especially African ones".

Floreani said there had been no objections within the body to Qatar's entry.

France has attracted Qatari investors who have bought the Paris Saint-Germain football club and acquired three percent of energy giant Total as well as stakes in building firm Vinci and media group Lagardère.

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