*US intelligence officials confirmed UAE role in hacking: Washington Post
*Qatar to prosecute perpetrators of 'shameful' cyber-attack
*Kuwaiti Cabinet reviews efforts for resolving Gulf crisis
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) orchestrated the hacking of a Qatari government news site in late May in order to plant a false story with incendiary quotes attributed to His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, a report in The Washington Post said.
Quoting unnamed US intelligence officials, the paper said senior members of the Emirati government discussed the plan on May 23. But the officials said it was unclear if the UAE hacked the websites or paid for them to be carried out, the newspaper said.
The report said it was unclear whether Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt had also taken part in penetrating Qatari government websites.
The hacking took place on May 24, shortly after a lengthy meeting between US President Donald Trump and Gulf leaders in Saudi Arabia.
In a statement, HE Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed al-Thani, Director, Government Communications Office, said: "Qatar has long maintained that its government news agency website was hacked on May 24 and fabricated quotes published. The information published in the Washington Post on July 16, 2017, which revealed the involvement of the UAE and senior Emirati officials in the hacking of Qatar News Agency, unequivocally proves that this hacking crime took place."
Sheikh Saif said it is especially unfortunate that this shameful act of cyber terrorism is being attributed to a fellow member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). "This criminal act represents a clear violation and breach of international law and of the bilateral and collective agreements signed between the member states of the GCC, as well as collective agreements with the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the United Nations."
He added that the Public Prosecution investigation into this crime is ongoing. "The Public Prosecutor will take all necessary legal measures to bring to justice the perpetrators and instigators of this crime, whether in Qatari courts or relevant international jurisdictions specialising in cyber crimes, as per the statement of HE the Public Prosecutor on June 20, 2017," he added.
The false statements attributed to the Emir was used as a trigger to launch the region's current diplomatic crisis leading to the blockade of Qatar.
Shortly after the cyber attack, Doha said the remarks were fabricated and that the news agency's website and Twitter account had been hacked by an "unknown entity" which was responsible for publishing a false statement attributed to the Emir.
The UAE has denied the allegations. The UAE embassy in the US posted on Twitter, quoting Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba, that the Washington Post story is 'false'.
Hours later, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, reiterated his government's denial, while addressing a gathering at Chatham House in London.
Regarding the possibility of Qatar being excluded from the GCC, Gargash said: "The GCC is in crisis and I don't think it serves our purposes to say let's take Qatar out."
On June 5, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of financing terrorism, an accusation that Doha denies. Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed sanctions on Doha including closing its only land border, denying Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from the country.
Several European diplomats have visited the Gulf over the past two weeks in a bid to ease the dispute, yet no breakthrough has been achieved.
A report from Kuwait adds: The Kuwaiti cabinet reviewed the latest developments of the Kuwaiti efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis in its session on Monday.
Following the meeting, Kuwait's Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Information Minister Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah al-Mubarak al-Sabah said he briefed the Cabinet on the results of the recent visits by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, UK National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill , and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Kuwait, during which they discussed the latest developments concerning the Gulf dispute and ways to resolve it.
Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah al-Mubarak al-Sabah said that all parties had expressed their appreciation for Kuwait's serious mediation efforts led by the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, and their support for these positive efforts in order to reach a practical solution to this crisis.