"Qatar, a small peninsular country in the Persian Gulf, has emerged as an important ally of the United States since the late 1990s and currently serves as host to major U.S. military facilities for command, basing, and equipment pre-positioning. Qatar holds the third largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, and its small population enjoys the highest per capita income of any Middle Eastern country. The Emir of Qatar, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has embarked upon a limited course of political liberalization since replacing his father in a bloodless palace coup in 1995. The Emir also has undertaken several projects to diversify Qatar's economy and improve educational opportunities for Qatari citizens. As part of Qatar's liberalization experiment, the Qatari monarchy founded Al Jazeera, the Arab worlds first all-news satellite television network, in 1995. In an April 2003 referendum, Qatari voters approved a new constitution that officially granted women the right to vote and run for national office. Under the new constitution, elections for a partially elected national assembly will take place some time in late 2006 or 2007."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31718
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