Manama: Qatar is likely to benefit from US support in strengthening the country's leadership role within the region, the US ambassador in Doha has said.

"Consultation was already under way, but it has been stepped up," Joseph Evan LeBaron said, referring to the meeting between Qatar's Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and President Barack Obama in Washington last month.

"This meeting pointed us in a direction that is qualitatively different from the past 10 years. In totality there has been a deepening of the relationship in political terms, in terms of science and technology and in terms of religious tolerance and the drawing together of the US and the Muslim world," he said, quoted by Qatari daily Gulf Times.

Leadership role

As a result of the boost to ties between the two countries, LeBaron suggested that Qatar would benefit from US support in strengthening and augmenting the country's leadership role within the region, the daily said.

LeBaron, who attended the meeting, said that one of the most significant areas of discussion was the recent events in the region and the role of the US in the current situation in the Middle East.

He said that the US was particularly supportive and appreciative of the leadership role that Qatar has adopted in light of the Libyan crisis.

"There was unanimity of views on Libya which is very important," he said. He added: "their approach to reform in the region is the same".

Role of Qatar in crisis in Yemen

However, the leaders also spoke about the role of Qatar in the crises in Yemen and Darfur - both efforts for which the US reiterated its support.

According to the diplomat, April represented a positive month for the relationship between Qatar and the US, spurred on primarily by Qatar's action regarding Libya, but strongly supported by economic, social and other political issues.

Investment between both countries continues to grow, and the US continues to support the endeavours of Qatar's leadership in the fields of science and technology and research.

LeBaron said that bilateral co-operation was bolstered by the recent US-Islamic Forum, which was jointly organised by the Brookings Institute, the Qatari government and the OIC.

Economic ties

Economic ties continued to grow, especially following the Business and Investment in Qatar Conference, held last month in New York.

Agreements were signed in a number of fields, with US companies winning contracts to work on the Lusail light transit service and a number of highway design projects among others. Qatar Airways also purchased five Boeing 777 aircraft, and many other deals were agreed at the event.

LeBaron, who completes his three-year tenure in Qatar in July, said that much of his work had been directed towards increasing understanding and co-operation between the US and the Islamic world.

The state of Palestine

This understanding will be called into question in September when the issue of recognising the state of Palestine is brought to the UN General Assembly, with many Arab people expecting the US to veto the decision.

The diplomat said that discussions and dialogue were ongoing between governments, but was unable to shed any light on a possible decision, the daily said. LeBaron's first assignment was vice-consul at the US embassy in Doha. Later postings included Amman, Ankara, Istanbul and Manama. He was ambassador to Mauritania before his appointment as ambassador to Qatar.

He is the author of For God or Country, a study of the interrelationship between economic development and two political movements, one Islamist, the other secular, in pre-independence Sudan.