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Sat 31 Mar 2012 10:17 AM

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US says UAE shuts office of pro-democracy group

United States defends role of Dubai office of National Democratic Institute after closure

US says UAE shuts office of pro-democracy group
US flag, Washington

The UAE has closed the Dubai office of the National Democratic Institute, a US-funded pro-democracy group that was the subject of a crackdown in Egypt, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

"We understand that the UAE government has closed the NDI office in Dubai," said State Department spokesman Noel Clay, offering no further details but defending the group's work.

"NDI is a respected organisation that has been working across the region and beyond to promote civil society, development and democratic values. The State Department is a firm supporter of NDI's activities," he said.

The UAE, one of the world's top five oil exporters, has escaped the upheaval that has shaken the Arab world, but the case of five activists convicted late last year of insulting the country's rulers suggests it is not immune to calls for reform.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan in December pardoned the activists a day after they were sentenced to prison terms of two to three years.

That case had been seen as a gauge of how the Gulf Arab state, which allows no political parties, responds to hints of dissent after the uprisings that have toppled four Arab heads of state, including former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

A US official said the United States had been in contact with UAE authorities about the closure of the NDI office and argued in favor of allowing such groups to operate.

"We made clear that allowing NGOs to operate openly and freely is important to support political and economic development," said the official, who asked not to be named.

The UAE embassy did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

NDI and the International Republican Institute, US-funded groups loosely affiliated with the two main political parties in the United States, are among a number of foreign and domestic civil society groups that have been prosecuted in Egypt.

The authorities accused campaigners for the nongovernmental organisations, including the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, of working for groups receiving illegal foreign funding and had prevented them from leaving Egypt.

The United States warned Egypt the case could imperil $1.3bn in military aid to Egypt, but tensions abated earlier this month when Egyptian authorities lifted a travel ban on some of the foreigners targeted and most of them left the country.

The case against the 43 Egyptian and foreign NGO workers remains, however, and a judge has delayed the trial of the civil society activists on charges of receiving illegal foreign funds and pursuing their work without a license until April 10.

amer 7 years ago

If the NDI is so adamant about playing a positive role in the GCC, then they can open an office in Kuwait and FIX that democracy experiment. It appears the democracy that was encouraged by the Bush administration has gone astray and has only fueled power to the Islamic movement who are enjoying sweeping support in the region after the Arab Spring. The UAE does not need democracy, they have a formative government who cares deeply for their nation and has implemented an impressive development path which is a template for the region. Democracy is not what the GCC needs, they need formative governments that will utilize their oil wealth to the benefit of their nations.

Calvin Pinto 7 years ago

These groups are welcome in India and fix the chaos of corruption in our "democratic" parliament.

George Jones 7 years ago

As you notice from previous comments, it appears that the NDI needs to set up shop in countries that already have democracies where governments seem to be on learning curves, as in Kuwait and India. These democracies have fueled platforms, as in Kuwait's case for Islamic's to control governments and in both cases to fuel increase in corruption levels. Maybe NDI needs to reformulate their agenda. Why would the U.S. want to empower Islamic movements in the region when they fight numerous war fronts against them? Puzzling to say the least, and finally we don't need Islamic movements to control the UAE, we're fine without them.

Saudi Engineer 7 years ago

I tend to agree with the second part of your comment, about having "formative governments" rather than the fallacy of "democracy" as proposed by the west.
But I have a question about your comment regarding Kuwait. Are you against the fact that Kuwait hasn't had a functioning government in ages, or the fact that Islamists are coming to power?