- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Lawmakers from both parties say the United Arab Emirates has helped shuttle weapons components around the Middle East, has ties to al Qaeda and shouldn’t be trusted to operate terminals in U.S. ports.

The legislators, disputing the Bush administration’s contention that the United Arab Emirates has been a loyal ally in the war on terror, are citing findings by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control and the September 11 commission report among their evidence.

According to the Wisconsin Project, an anti-proliferation group, United Arab Emirates officials in 2003 allowed 66 switches used in nuclear weapons to be sent to a Pakistani man. In the mid-1990s, they also allowed representatives of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, to ship technology through Dubai to Iran.

It also says the Iraq Survey Group, which oversaw United Nations sanctions against Iraq, in 2004 listed 20 UAE firms suspected of having acted as intermediaries or front companies for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and said the United Arab Emirates was a transit area for prohibited goods, such as rocket fuel ingredients, with companies using deceptive trade practices.

“I don’t think those are the folks you want running your ports,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said yesterday.

Mr. Hunter said he gave the Wisconsin Project information to top administration officials last week, who were unaware of the details and have begun reviewing them. He said he discussed the issue with President Bush yesterday, and gave White House aides more documentation.

Mr. Hunter also introduced legislation yesterday that would block the $6.8 billion DP World bid to purchase terminal operations in six major U.S. ports and kick out all foreign companies that own port terminals or other U.S. infrastructure.

The initial Bush administration approval of the Dubai-owned company’s bid for the operations now privately owned by London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. prompted national security concerns on Capitol Hill. It’s now under a 45-day executive review.

Mr. Bush, who along with top security officials and Cabinet members did not find out about the deal until its approval by an interagency panel, has final say over the proposal he continues to support.

“A terrorist will try to exploit every possible means to carry out their evil plans. The fact remains, however, that the United Arab Emirates has been a strong and valuable partner in the global war on terror,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Meanwhile, lawmakers such as Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, and Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, have pointed to a 1999 incident, detailed in the September 11 commission report, in which the U.S. military refrained from striking an Afghan terrorist camp where Osama bin Laden was located because they didn’t want to kill a top official from the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Weldon said the U.S. warned the United Arab Emirates of the coming attack and a week later the camp was gone, which he said means emirate officials “tipped off” the terrorists.

Mr. Dorgan also noted that two of the September 11 hijackers were United Arab Emirates citizens and that the United Arab Emirates functioned as a “crossroads” through which the notorious Dr. Khan moved nuclear material and knowledge to other countries.

“I don’t wish to offend the United Arab Emirates, but neither should we be offending common sense,” Mr. Dorgan said last week before he too introduced a bill to block the DP World deal.

Both Mr. Weldon and Mr. Dorgan also point to a June 2002 memo from al Qaeda to top officials in the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai. The memo demands the United Arab Emirates stop cooperating with the United States, and states that al Qaeda has “infiltrated” United Arab Emirates’ security, monetary and other vital systems, and can easily shut the country down.

Neither Mr. Weldon nor Mr. Dorgan knows whether the memo is credible or not, but Mr. Weldon said when he questioned Bush administration officials during a hearing last week, most didn’t know about it.

“To me that’s troubling,” he said.

Mr. Weldon said he doesn’t think the 1999 incident or the al Qaeda memo were given adequate weight by the administration in approving the deal.

“To me, they’re both substantive issues that should have been thoroughly reviewed,” he said.

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