We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sun 13 Jan 2008 09:38 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Bush to reach out to Iranians during UAE visit

US president will tell Iranians there is better way to live than the one their regime provides.

US president George W. Bush was set to use a visit to the UAE on Sunday to reach out to ordinary Iranians across the Gulf.

Bush intends to tell Iranians, for whom the UAE is their main commercial partner, that there is a better alternative to the current regime, his spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters as he prepared to wrap up a visit to nearby Bahrain late Saturday.

"When he speaks to different people in the region, he will again speak to the Iranians themselves and tell them that there is a better future for them, a better way to live than what their current government is providing for them," Perino said.

The Middle East tour which Bush began in Israel on Wednesday has been overshadowed by renewed tensions with Tehran following a face-off between Iranian and US naval vessels in the Gulf last Sunday that prompted US warnings that its forces were authorised to defend themselves with force if necessary.

Bush was due to fly into the UAE capital Abu Dhabi from Bahrain where he was 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 on Saturday 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", his spokeswoman said.

Bush is also expected to talk of 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.

"He will talk about how democracy and advancing freedom is the core of our country's foreign policy, and that he believes it is in our interest to have security through democracies," Perino said.

Trade between the oil-rich Gulf state and the US is also likely to loom large on the agenda.

During Bush's visit to Bahrain on Saturday, Manama-based Gulf Air announced it was placing a $4 billion order for 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options for eight more.

A free trade pact 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.

But the US and the UAE - touted as a model of economic progress in an unstable region - have steadily forged closer links.

US firms have scrambled to secure a foothold in the country while Emirati companies and funds snap up prized US assets.

The two countries are far more discreet about their military links and only held the first meeting of a Joint Military Commission in January 2005.

Neither side speaks publicly about logistical accords dating back to the 1991 Gulf War whereby US aerial refuelling tankers and C-130 transporters have used facilities in the UAE.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall