"The Arab world is not ready to launch its own (reform) initiative due to diverging interests," said Foreign Minister Hamid bin Jasim bin Jabr al-Thani in reports published in local newspapers on Tuesday. 

Al-Thani, who spoke on Monday night during a cultural festival in Doha, defended a US plan to unveil a Greater Middle East initiative to promote democracy in Arab and Muslim states during the Group of Eight summit of developed nations in June. 

He called on Arabs to "study the contents and to rationally examine the ideas and objectives" of the US plan. Al-Thani proposed a "strategic partnership between countries of the region and world powers," based on the US plan to "promote democracy in the world." 

The Qatari minister had previously defended the US plan on 3 March during a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. 

Criticism

Several Arab countries, including US allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have criticised the initiative, fearing Washington wants to impose its own cultural models on the region. 

They are expected to discuss a counter-initiative during an Arab summit in Tunis on 29-30 March. 

The gas-rich emirate of Qatar, which has a population of 650,000 of mostly foreign workers, has launched a series of reforms since 1995 including the passing of a constitution last April. It plans to hold partial elections for its Shura (Consultative) Council next year. 

Qatar served as the operation base for the US-led war on Iraq in the early months of 2003.