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Thu 5 Apr 2012 05:33 PM

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Foreign NGOs in UAE closed over ‘license violations’

Gov't says closed US and Germany-backed think tanks were operating without correct licenses

Foreign NGOs in UAE closed over ‘license violations’
UAE flag

A number of foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the UAE were shutdown last month due to license violations, the Gulf state has said.

In March, the UAE’s government shuttered the Dubai office of the National Democratic Institute, a US-funded pro-democracy group that had previously been the subject of a crackdown in Egypt.

Around the same time, authorities also closed the Abu Dhabi office of German think thank the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Until today, authorities did not provide an explanation for the closures, leading analysts to speculate that the crackdown was an attempt to quell any Arab Spring-inspired civil uprisings.

"Some foreign institutions that were operating in the UAE have violated the terms of the licence; some have been operating without a licence,” said Assistant UAE Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, Dr Abdul Rahim al Awadhi, in a statement on the official WAM news agency.

“This obliged the legal authorities to issue instructions that they should cease their work in the UAE".

Earlier this week, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton expressed “regret” over the closure of NGOs in the Arab world.

"We very much regret it," Clinton said after a meeting in Riyadh with foreign ministers from Gulf States, referring to the closure of the Dubai office of the National Democratic Institute.

Clinton said she discussed the issue with Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

"We are as you know, as anyone who has visited the United States, strong believers in a vibrant civil society... I expect our discussions on this issue to continue," Clinton told reporters.

* With agencies