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By Debasree S.

Dubai –the fastest growing city on the face of the earth-- is preparing to roll out the red carpet for US President George Bush when he arrives tomorrow (Jan 14) from Abu Dhabi. The visit –which is part of a 8-day tour of the Middle East --is the first by a current US Head of State and is meant to bolster ties with the UAE which has represented an oasis of development and progress in an otherwise unstable region.

Today (Jan 13), the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will hold talks with the US president and host a luncheon in his honour. Bush will also address an elite gathering at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) and meet members of the US-UAE Business Council, tour Saadiyat Island as well as the Masdar Initiative in the capital.

During a fleeting visit to Dubai tomorrow, the country's glitzy commercial capital Bush, will take a round of some of the iconic projects like the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest man-made sky-scraper and The World, a cluster of man-made islands representing the world and its continents. To mark the visit, the Abu Dhabi's Centre of Information Affairs has issued a biography of the US President in English and Arabic.

Bilateral Ties
UAE and US have always enjoyed a long and peaceful relationship rooted in shared strategic interests. The four pillars of its bilateral relations with the UAE have rested on enhancing regional stability and security, ensuring reliable energy supplies to the world markets, encouraging global free trade and investments and confronting terrorism and extremism.

Featuring prominently on the agenda will be a free trade pact that has so far eluded Washington and Abu Dhabi, and their friendship suffered a setback when US congressional opposition forced Dubai's giant port operator to offload US operations in 2006.

The UAE has been a substantial economic partner with the US. The US Commerce Department named the UAE as the United States' single largest export market in the Middle East, with nearly $12 billion in exports in 2006. At least  750 US firms are currently operating out of UAE.

UAE institutions have been consistent and responsible investors in US capital markets for more than 30 years. The UAE has generated most oil revenues from sales to Asia, while reinvesting a significant percentage in US markets. In 2006, UAE investment firms directly invested $3.5 billion in US companies.

The Middle East tour which Bush began in Israel on Wednesday last has been fraught with tensions with Tehran following a face-off between Iranian and US naval vessels in the Gulf last Sunday prompting US warnings that its forces were authorized to retaliate.

Bush is expected to meet personnel of the US Fifth Fleet which is based in the archipelago and is responsible for patrolling Gulf waters. Throughout his tour, Bush has kept up his rhetoric against Tehran, which Washington accuses of trying to acquire an atomic bomb under the cover of a civil nuclear programme. Iran says its nuclear programme is only for producing electricity.

In Israel, Bush warned that Iran posed "a threat to world peace" and should not be allowed to develop nuclear know-how. In Kuwait he called on Iran to stop supporting militias that attack US forces and Iraqis.

But Washington has also been careful to reassure Gulf allies fearful of renewed conflict in their backyard that it regards military action against Iran as a last resort. In Abu Dhabi Bush will remind the region about the US commitment to Gulf security, his belief that this can be solved diplomatically.

Bush is also expected to highlight the importance of promoting democracy in the region, a difficult issue in the UAE, a federation of seven emirates which has so far held only indirect elections to an advisory federal council and where much of the population does not have citizenship. (ends)
source : GoDubai

Date: 13/1/2008

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