Dubai’s ruler plays down fears of nuclear Iran

HH Sheikh Mohammed tackles Arab Spring unrest, risk to UAE of global financial woes
Dubai’s ruler plays down fears of nuclear Iran
HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Vice-President of the UAE
By Staff writer
Tue 06 Dec 2011 12:46 PM

Dubai’s
ruler has said he does not believe Iran’s nuclear push is aimed at developing
an atomic weapon and said the Persian state is realistic about the consequences
of a strike against Israel.

In an
interview with CNN, HH Sheikh
Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum implied that rhetoric over the risk of a nuclear
Tehran to Israel in recent weeks had been overblown.

“What can Iran do with a nuclear weapon?” he said. “For
example, will they hit Israel? How many Palestinians will die? And you think if
Iran hits Israel, their cities will be safe? They will be gone the next day.”

Tehran
is facing a fresh wave of sanctions after a UN report last month said the
country appeared to have worked on designing an atom bomb and may be pursuing
secret research to that end.

 “Iran is our neighbour,”
Sheikh Mohammed said. “They are Muslim, and we lived next to each other for
thousands and thousands of years. I don't believe that Iran will develop a
nuclear weapon.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Sheikh Mohammed also discussed
the root causes of the Arab Spring
upheaval that has toppled rulers in Egypt,
Libya and Tunisia. The UAE, the world's third biggest oil exporter, has not
seen the kind of protests that have rocked the region, partly thanks to its
generous cradle-to-grave welfare system.

Sheikh Mohammed said he had warned rulers in Arab countries
that simmering political unrest could erupt if they failed to address the needs
of their populations.

“The
Arab Spring is people who waited for a long time and some governments are
serving themselves and not serving their people,” he said. “I said in 2004, I
said ‘please change or you will be changed.’”

The UAE has pledged to spend $1.6bn in Ras Al Khaimah,
Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm al-Quwain, in a bid to close the wealth gap
with richer emirates Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The Gulf state has been widely seen as a safe haven
destination during the unrest, helping to spur a rebound from its own 2009 debt
crisis
. The government has moved quickly to quash any signs of unrest within
its own borders, sentencing five Emirati activists to jail last month for insulting
the leaders of the Gulf state. The five were pardoned and released hours later.

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The case was an indication the UAE is continuing to find its
way towards a more democratic society, Sheikh Mohammed said.

“If you
are a criminal you go to court. Not everybody is really perfect and we are not
perfect, we are doing a lot for people but there is still a lot to do so we
hope this five will become better citizens for their own good and for their own
people,” he said.

“As long
as they don’t say something wrong about a person or whatever is it is, they can
say whatever they want. We are not perfect, we are still learning. We are
trying to help our people, we have our own democracy. You cannot transport your
democracy to us… [but] as long as you don’t step on somebody else you are free
to do what you like.”

The rulers of the UAE were also keeping a close eye on
Europe’s debt crisis and the slowing US economy, Sheikh Mohammed said.  Concerns that Europe’s fiscal woes are
weighing on export-dependent economies have been mounting and Standard & Poor's on Monday warned it may carry out an
unprecedented mass downgrade on the credit ratings of euro zone countries if EU
leaders fail to reach a deal on how to solve the region's debt crisis in a
summit later this week.

“Of
course, the American crisis or the European crisis [is] affecting the market
but we are [better placed] here than anybody else,” he said. “We got out of the
crisis and now we are back
building again. But just to remind you [during] the
crisis, the tallest building we completed, the metro we completed, the Meydan
we completed, all while in the crisis. All the big projects we did not stop, we
only stopped some projects on the paper for a year or two.”

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