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A father fears for his family's safety

MANAMA, Bahrain—The child sleeps soundly, peacefully unaware.

His father is nervous. He wants to take his family out of the Middle East, away from the threat of war, but he has nowhere to go. Besides, he has a job to do supplying the world with natural gas.

So they go about their daily lives.

Ahmed Almas al Sulaiti sits in an airport lounge in Manama, Bahrain, waiting for a plane to his home in Doha, Qatar. His 4-year-old son, Yousef al Sulaiti, sleeps on a couch, the first time he has slept soundly in weeks.

"If the war starts, where should I take my son?" al Sulaiti asks. "Where should I go? Everything is going to be closed. Airports? Closed. Where can I take him? I don't want to leave Doha, but I'm concerned about my family. If Saddam Hussein has the biological weapons, yes, I'm concerned about that, but I don't know if he does."

If there is a war against Iraq, U.S. commanders will run it from a base about 10 miles from where al Sulaiti lives. "I'm glad the Americans are in my country, but I'm not glad with what's happening," he says. "We don't want war.

"Saddam Hussein says if war starts, the first place he's going to hit is Doha, because we have the biggest American base, at al Udeid. I could be wrong, but the American fighters will leave Doha to hit him. So he's going to fight back in Doha. That's what I heard.

"I'm worried about our people, our family, our kids. I am concerned."

It's not enough to stop his life or his travels.

Al Sulaiti, 35, took his son to Bahrain to see a dermatologist for a severe case of eczema, a skin condition that causes itching. Yousef's prescription ran out two weeks ago, and he has been miserable since. They've been to several doctors in Qatar but have found only one medicine that alleviates the problem. The only place they can get it is Bahrain.

Al Sulaiti was able to get a three-month supply.

What will happen in those three months?

Al Sulaiti is one of two commercial officers at Qatargas, which pioneered liquefied natural gas production in Qatar. The country of Qatar owns the gas, but Qatargas is one of several companies that transports it. "I'm in charge of all the ships and invoice them," al Sulaiti says. "We have 11 ships. I'm in charge of the documents, distribution, contact with the buyers, doing the invoices."

One ship can transport up to $15 million worth of product, he said. Qatargas' goal is to become the world's leading supplier of natural gas.

If there is a war, it will slow business dramatically, al Sulaiti said, because buyers will be reluctant to fly to Qatar to sign a contract.

"He's too young to understand," al Sulaiti said of his son. "Nobody wants war."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ILLUSTRATION (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): FACES ALSULAITI illus.