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UK Warns Of Higher Threat Of Terror Attack In UAE – Middle East News

Posted by 7starsdubai on June 18, 2008


UK Warns Of Higher Threat Of Terror Attack In UAE – Middle East News

Monday, Jun 16, 2008

(Adds comments from HSBC, BA and Control Risks.)

By Andrew Critchlow and Oliver Klaus

Of ZAWYA DOW JONES

DUBAI (Zawya Dow Jones)–The U.K. government has raised its assessment of a terrorist attack in the United Arab Emirates where about 120,000 British expats reside, to high, from general.

“There is a high threat from terrorism,” according to an e-mailed note from the British Embassy sent late Sunday. “Terrorists may be planning to carry out attacks in the U.A.E.”

The notice sent to registered U.K. expatriates in the emirates says that “terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and could happen at any time, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers such as residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests.”

Simon Goldsmith, a political affairs officer at the British embassy in Dubai declined to comment Monday on what information has triggered the significant increase in threat alert for the U.A.E.

“This is under constant review and can go up, or down,” he told Zawya Dow Jones. British citizens account for the largest group of Western expatriate workers in the emirates, among the most moderate of Gulf Arab states.

The U.A.E. is now ranked at the highest level of threat for a terrorist attack on a level with Saudi Arabia and Yemen, according to Goldsmith. The British government has four security advisory levels: low, underlying, general and high.

The alert could spark panic among the thousands of expatriates living in emirates such as Dubai, which is booming from an influx of foreign white collar workers to its banking and finance district.

Dubai, which has little oil, could be the hardest hit of the seven sheikdoms in the emirates by any loss in confidence over the country’s security against terrorism. Goldsmith told Zawya Dow Jones that about 1 million British tourists visit the emirates every year.

Political Shock

“Non-nationals account for over 80% of the population, so yes, it could potentially be hit by a political shock that slowed the inflow of expatriate labor or, in a more extreme scenario, caused resident expatriates to leave the country,” said Tristan Cooper, senior Middle East sovereign analyst at Moody’s Investor Services.

The embassy hasn’t changed its advisory for travelers to the U.A.E. and is not telling tourists to cancel their holiday plans in the emirates as a result of the heightened threat of a terrorist attack, Goldsmith said.

The British embassy is so far the only major foreign diplomatic mission in the U.A.E. to warn of an increased threat of terrorist attack.

The U.S. State Department hasn’t issued any new warning Monday. A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi said only that the embassy was aware of the U.K. warning and is “constantly monitoring” the security situation and constantly communicates with the American community in the U.A.E.

Business executives in Dubai were largely dismissive of the U.K. embassy’s warning saying that the sheikdom’s relentless economic boom will march on regardless.

Tim Harrison, a Dubai-based spokesperson for HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC), said the bank wasn’t planning any action, or giving any additional advice to its U.A.E.-based employees.

British Airways PLC’s (BAY.LN) London-based spokesperson Eun Fordyce said the carrier was aware of the new security warning but declined to comment on whether the company planned to increase security for its employees in the U.A.E.

The Dubai Financial Market shrugged off any concerns over the U.K. government’s statement closing Monday up 0.5% to 5660.94 points in the morning session. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange was up narrowly 0.7% to 5144.88.

U.S. Allies

The U.A.E., historically a key U.S. and U.K. ally in the Persian Gulf, has so far escaped attacks from Al Qaeda Islamic militants who have targeted neighboring states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Terrorists bombed a theater in Qatar, killing a U.K. expatriate and injuring 12 others, in 2005. Saudi Arabia, which maintains a more conservative Muslim society than the emirates, has repeatedly faced attacks from Islamic extremists against expatriate workers and its oil facilities since 2003.

The emirates openness to Western culture such as allowing the consumption of alcohol in public places and its open door policy to foreigners may make it a target for Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda.

Jebel Ali port, located about 40 kilometers southwest of central Dubai, is the only harbor facility in the Gulf where U.S. nuclear-class aircraft carriers can dock to allow sailors onshore.

To be sure, the federation has tightened up on money laundering and its internal security in an effort to ensure militants don’t gain a foothold. Two of the 19 terrorists involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. were U.A.E. nationals.

The government said last month it planned to spend 3 billion U.A.E. dirhams ($821 million) boosting security in an effort to safeguard its oil facilities, which pump about 2.6 million barrels a day of crude.

Neil Quilliam, an analyst at Control Risks Group, a security advisory company, said that Al Qaeda was unlikely to target the U.A.E., which is relatively easy to access when compared to neighboring Gulf states.

“We are led to believe that Al Qaeda does operate in some form in the U.A.E. so by targeting the U.A.E. it will be diminishing its own access,” he said.

-By Andrew Critchlow, Dow Jones Newswires; +9714 364 4960; andrew.critchlow@dowjones.com (with reporting by Tahani Karrar, Maria Abi-Habib and Chip Cummins in Dubai.)

Copyright (c) 2007, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

16-06-08 1218GMT

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