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Qatar says homosexuals welcome, World Cup seen as catalyst for change

The chief executive of Qatar's World Cup organizing committee says homosexuals are very welcome at next year's football festival and that extra scrutiny of the country may be a "catalyst for change."

The chief executive of Qatar‘s World Cup organizing committee says homosexuals are very welcome at next year’s football festival and that extra scrutiny of the country may be a “catalyst for change.”

Qatar is arguably the most controversial World Cup host of all time, a year before a ball is even kicked in a tournament moved to November and December because of the heat.

Human rights groups say many thousands of migrant workers may have died building the World Cup infrastructure while there are worries about Qatar‘s anti-homosexual laws and the state’s treatment of women.

“The notion that people don’t feel safe here is untrue,” Nasser Al Khater told CNN on Tuesday.

“Everybody is welcome here and everybody will feel safe here. Qatar is a tolerant country. It’s a welcoming country. It’s a hospitable country.”

Al Khater says Qatar has been treated “unfairly and unjustly” since winning the bid 11 years ago amid allegations of vote buying which it denies.

But he thinks hosting sport’s most watched tournament might change minds at home and abroad.

“We know that the World Cup brings with it a certain amount of scrutiny. We’ve seen it in the past,” he said. “But if it’s something that’s going to be catalyst for change, we’re all for it.”

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