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Qatar builds a brand as mediator

Flush with cash and fancy hotels, Qatar has hosted representatives from the West Bank, Gaza, Darfur, and Libya in the past year alone.

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Spectator sport: Palestinians watched a television broadcast from Qatar of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha, at an appliance store in Gaza City, Gaza.

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Doha's five-star hotels are not only filled with regal gold divans and marble walls, they're also filled with rebels.

In the past year alone, representatives from Darfur, Nigeria, Djibouti, and Libya have come here for peace negotiations.

Most recently, the Qataris brokered a power-sharing deal between warring Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in February. Within weeks, Hamas's political chief abruptly abandoned Syria, his longtime patron, and decamped to Doha.

Even the Taliban had planned to open an office here to pave the way for talks with the US and Afghan governments. But the group abruptly suspended those plans on March 15 and it remains unclear whether the talks can be salvaged.

What's the draw of this tiny emirate?

Qatar offers a powerful combination of money, hotel space, and connections – and is largely devoid of historical baggage.

The government, which aims to increase its international stature, spends millions footing hotel bills for rebels. After agreements are signed, Qatar sweetens the deal with reconstruction and development aid. The Qatari emir and the foreign minister personally invest in building relationships with the various parties.

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