Qatar is on track to open its new $14 billion international airport in 2011 as the world’s largest gas exporter looks to diversify government revenues and stimulate employment, an official said on Sunday.

Speaking at an aviation conference in Doha, Qatar, the chairman of the country’s civil aviation authority said the new airport would have capacity for 24 million passengers and cargo of 1.4 million tonnes a year.

“The new $14 billion airport will be over 22 kilometres and open in 2011,” Adul Aziz Al Noaimi said.

Qatar has been pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure development to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons, help propel itself on the international arena and become a transport hub between Europe and Asia.

Qatar is vying with Abu Dhabi and Dubai to become the Gulf’s transit hub with all three boosting airport capacity.

Its flagship airline Qatar Airways, which has a fleet of almost 70 planes, has been expanding rapidly.

The carrier hopes to add 42 planes in four years and has orders for more than 220 planes, worth $40 billion.

The Gulf carrier recently ordered 24 A320 planes from Airbus during the Paris Air Show, saying deliveries would begin at the end of 2009 and be completed by 2012.

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