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Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Dubai

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ABU DHABI: New 'green city' for environmentally damaged country


Until now, Abu Dhabi has been known as the quiet powerhouse behind its flashier neighbor, Dubai, bankrolling record-breaking skyscrapers and fantastical island resorts intended to make the United Arab Emirates synonymous with luxury, wealth and success.

But now Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is looking to set a different kind of example. The Masdar development project, due to be completed in 2013, aims to be the world's first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city.

Nawal Al Hosany, associate director for sustainability at Masdar, told Babylon & Beyond that the project is "leading by example and is already being approached by other developers and government entities within Abu Dhabi for advice on how to be more sustainable."

"Masdar is acting as a regional catalyst for sustainability," he added.

But the Emirates have a long way to go. The World Wildlife Fund has singled out the tiny oil- and gas-rich country for having the largest environmental footprint per capita in the world.

Inexpensive gas coupled with residents' taste for big cars and houses -- not to mention the amount of energy needed to run an indoor ski slope in scorching desert temperatures –– have contributed to pushing the UAE's environmental footprint up to 11.9 global hectares per person, more than five times the global average of 2.2.

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MIDDLE EAST: In wake of WikiLeaks scandal, Arab leaders are cautious on Iran censure

GCC Nahyan

Arabian peninsula states have adopted a conciliatory tone on Iran a little over a week after U.S. diplomatic cables released by the watchdog site WikiLeaks appeared to show serious anxiety among Arab leaders over Tehran's growing power, and even enthusiasm in some corners (and at certain points) for a military attack on its controversial nuclear program.

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Atiyyah stopped short of an outright repudiation, but he described the content of the leaked cables as "guesses or analyses that can hit or miss" and that "generated misunderstandings," according to the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper.

The council wrapped up a two-day summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, gently calling on Iran to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear program in order to end sanctions against Tehran. The closing statement also reiterated Arab support for Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program.

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MIDDLE EAST: Arab media play down WikiLeaks reports of support for Iran war

Picture 5 Well, this is awkward.

Many of the same Arab governments that called for an investigation into U.S. war crimes based on the WikiLeaks Iraq war log continue to ignore revelations in the latest trove of leaked documents that show Arab leaders pushed the United States to use military force against Iran.

Headlines in the heavily state-controlled Saudi media were dominated by news of King Abdullah's ongoing physiotherapy, while the top story in the Emirati newspaper, Al Bayan, centered on Prince Mohamad bin Rashid's praise for the country's progress toward "transparency." Most mentions of the WikiLeaks documents in official Arabic news outlets were scrubbed of any reference to the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing instead on U.S. attempts to control the damage to its diplomatic relations.

Even the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, considered one of the most credible pan-Arab news outlets, tread lightly in its coverage and generally refrained from repeating the most incendiary quotes from the heads of neighboring states.

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DUBAI: "Mission: Impossible" wraps up filming in swanky Persian Gulf hub


Pomp and circumstance marked the ending of the the nearly monthlong shoot of the fourth "Mission: Impossible" movie with the ghostly title "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" in Dubai.

Pictures published in the local media showed "Mission: Impossible" star Tom Cruise posing with Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Dubai authorities mingling with the cast and crew during the farewell meeting, which took place some days ago.

As a token of appreciation to the glitzy Persian Gulf hub, Cruise and "Mission: Impossible" director Brad Bird and producer Bryan Burk gave Sheikh Maktoum a director's chair with his name on it and a clapboard with autographs of the stars of the film.

As they declared the mission accomplished in Dubai, the team also thanked Dubai authorities for their cooperation during the filming, said local Arab media reports

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Canada, UAE clash over mystery Mabhouh assassin

Mabhouh elevator

There is a diplomatic storm brewing between Canada and the United Arab Emirates, and the latest twist involves a mystery assassin.

On Tuesday, Dubai's chief of police, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan, slammed Canadian authorities for allegedly dragging their feet in investigating a suspect in their custody who had been linked to the asssassination of a Hamas official in Dubai in January.

But on Wednesday, the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail quote unnamed Canadian officials denying that Canada had made such an arrest and calling the Emirati assertion "baseless."

The current spat is set against a background of heightened tensions between the formerly friendly countries following Canada's refusal to grant the Emirates' two main airlines, Etihad and Emirates, increased access to its airports. Shortly after, the Emirates shut down what had been a secret Canadian air base, nicknamed "Camp Mirage," on its soil in what was widely viewed as a retaliatory measure.

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Top religious leader calls for restrictions on marriages to foreigners

Mn-dubai17_ph1_0499914787The leading Islamic scholar of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai's Grand Mufti Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz Haddad, appears to be deeply concerned over the growing numbers of Emirati men that are marrying foreign women.

His solution: Curb mixed marriages and impose restrictions on Emirati men that are marrying foreign women. In Haddad's opinion, Emirati men should only think of marrying a foreign woman as a last resort.

"There should be very specific circumstances for when such marriages are allowed,” Gulf Arab media reports quoted Haddad as saying at a recent discussion forum in Dubai on the issue.

“Such as when a man is too old and cannot find an Emirati to marry him, or when he wants to take a third of fourth wife for certain reasons and no Emirati woman agrees to do so.”

A proposed law regulating the marriages of Emirati men to foreign women is already in the pipeline and up for review by UAE lawmakers. Among other restrictions, the proposed legislation stipulates that the wife must be Muslim and Arab, that the age difference between the husband and wife must not exceed 25 years, and that the couple must be free of sexually transmitted diseases.

In addition, under the proposal, a man would have to obtain permission from the Ministry of Interior if he wants to marry a foreign woman. 

Emirati women's marriages to foreigners are not under scrutiny for now since only Emirati men are permitted by law to pass on his citizenship to their spouse and children.

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DUBAI: Police issue stern warning against violating Ramadan fast

Picture 3 Dubai police have warned the public that it will not go easy on violators of virtue during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

In a statement issued by Dubai police earlier this week, Colonel Mohammad Nasser Razooqi advised the public to abide by the traditions of Ramadan, warning that public eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight fasting hours is an offense to Muslims and considered a crime Dubai.

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DUBAI: Alleged victim of gang rape sentenced to one year in prison

British_woman_arrested_in_Dubai_when_she_tried_to_report_rape-topImageThe Criminal Court of Abu Dhabi, in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, ruled this week that an 18-year-old Emirati woman who accused six men of gang-raping her will herself serve a one-year sentence for consensual sex.

It's one of in the latest in a scourge of reported rape cases in Dubai, The court proceedings were marred by legal travesties, experts say.

While the plaintiff was not granted a lawyer, the defendants were. Moreover, the plaintiff could not have any family members present with her during the trial, the court decided. The prosecution also argued that simply because the plaintiff agreed to enter the police officer's car, this action somehow constituted partial consent to sex, The National reported.

Emirati authorities had kept the plaintiff imprisoned since she made the allegations last month.

Meanwhile, the accused rapists mostly got off lightly. A police officer will serve one year in prison for extramarital sex and two of the other defendants were sentenced to three months for being in the company of a woman not related to them by blood.

Two more defendants must pay a fine of 5,000 dirhams, or $1,361.50, for violating public decency.

The court dropped charges against the sixth defendant.

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ISRAEL: Ireland sends Israeli diplomat packing with a message that forging passports is 'clearly unacceptable'

The government of Ireland called on Israel to "withdraw a designated member of its staff" from its embassy in Dublin, Reuters reported Tuesday. This polite wording means that a third country is kicking out a Mossad rep over misuse -- forgery, in this case -- of its passports in the assassination of Mahmoud el Mabhouh in Dubai in January. Previously, Britain and Australia each sent packing an unnamed Israeli diplomat said to be the intelligence agency's representative in response to the misuse of their passports.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said in a statement that the misuse of Irish passports by a state with which Ireland enjoys friendly, if sometimes frank, bilateral relations is clearly unacceptable and requires a "firm response."

The Mossad is widely believed to be behind the assassination. Israel isn't commenting. But quite a few Israelis with dual nationalities learned from the Dubai police that their identities had recently visited Dubai without them.

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DUBAI: At Germany's behest, Poland reportedly arrests alleged Israeli Mossad agent linked to Hamas killing


Here's another piece in the puzzle of a mysterious Middle East assassination in January that continues to reverberate around the world. 

The website of the German magazine Der Spiegel reported (in German) on Saturday that Polish authorities, at the request of Germany, arrested an Israeli suspect connected to the January assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud Mabhouh.

The report, citing German security officials, says the suspect was traveling through Warsaw airport under the name "Uri Brodsky."

According to Spiegel, a request by Berlin to extradite the suspect has caused a diplomatic clash with Israel, which has asked Warsaw not to comply.

According to the report, the man had accompanied an alleged Mossad operative who fraudulently obtained a German passport in Cologne last year under the name "Michael Bodenheimer," an identity that was among those allegedly used by a member of the hit team that struck Mabhouh in his hotel room.

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Stricter smoking ban expected soon as anti-tobacco fervor sweeps Middle East

Shisha_smoker The United Arab Emirates may breathe easier under a strict ban on smoking, the details of which are still being hammered out five months after the actual bill was signed by President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National reported this week.

The new bylaws would ban smoking in all public places, including hotels, cafes and restaurants, and outlaw all forms of tobacco advertising. Even the ubiquitous nargileh, the traditional water pipe puffed across the region by teenagers and grandmothers alike, would be subject to tighter regulations.

The original law required only a partial ban on public smoking, and the wording was so vague that it could not be implemented, forcing health officials back to the drawing table.

They ultimately adopted more or less the exact language prescribed by the World Health Organization, banning even special smoking areas within public establishments and requiring smokers to stay at least 25 feet away from the entrance to a public building.

"We want to prevent the use of tobacco products in all public venues in the country. We want to fight this," Dr. Salim Adib of the Abu Dhabi Health Authority told The National. "I don’t think we should accept anything less than what is happening in Western Europe."

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