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Qatar World Cup 2022: Egypt's Sisi and Saudi crown prince to attend opening ceremony

Egyptian president and Saudi Arabia's de facto leader to visit Qatar in sign of warming relations
Few details were available on heads of state to attend the opening ceremony, but state media said UN secretary-general and Algeria's president among those in Doha (AFP)

The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are set to attend the opening ceremony of the Qatar World Cup on Sunday, in a sign of warming ties between Doha and the two countries.

Qatar has improved ties with Egypt and its Gulf neighbours after a resolution last year to end a political row that had seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt boycott Doha for more than three years.

The Saudi crown prince, the kingdom's de facto ruler, arrived in Doha late on Saturday to attend the ceremony. Egypt's state TV said Sisi had also arrived in Qatar for the ceremony, Reuters reported.

Abdullah bin Hamad Al Thani, the deputy of Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was at the reception of Prince Mohammed upon his arrival, Qatar's Amiri Diwan, which organises royal affairs, said in a statement.

The opening ceremony in a tent-shaped stadium will be held ahead of the first match, which is between hosts Qatar and Ecuador.

Few details were available on heads of state attending, but state media said the UN secretary-general and Algeria's president arrived on Saturday.

On stage, the South Korean singer Jungkook, of K-pop boy band BTS, will perform a new official tournament song called Dreamers alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi, Fifa, world football's governing body, said in a statement early on Sunday.

Qatar and Fifa hope the spotlight will turn to action on the pitch after the hosts faced mounting criticism over its treatment of foreign workers, LGBTQ+ rights and social restrictions, including banning alcohol at stadiums and public displays of affection.

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Organisers have also denied allegations of bribery for granting hosting rights as Qatar becomes the smallest nation to hold football's biggest global event.

Al-Qaeda's regional branch has urged Muslims around the world to shun the tournament, though it stopped short of threatening attacks or promoting violence in connection with the event, according to a statement reported by a monitoring group on Saturday.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group's Yemen-based branch, criticised Qatar for "bringing immoral people, homosexuals, sowers of corruption and atheism into the Arabian Peninsula" and said the event served to divert attention from the "occupation of Muslim countries and their oppression".

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