AP: The United Arab Emirates announced a new law Friday permitting it to ban or restrict shipments for national security or foreign policy reasons. Associated Press
By TED BRIDIS
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – The United Arab Emirates announced a new law Friday permitting it to ban or restrict shipments for national security or foreign policy reasons.
The Bush administration had pressured it to crack down on companies believed to be smuggling equipment to Iran to build explosive devices killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. pressure for tougher trade laws is part of the Bush administration’s broader campaign to contain Iran amid tensions over its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons and support of the Iraqi insurgency. Just this week, President Bush said: “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere.”
The new law permits authorities to ban or restrict imports, exports or passthrough shipments for reasons of health, safety, environmental concerns, national security or foreign affairs. It creates a new commission for setting these rules, and membership will include federal ministries and executives from private companies.
The passage of the law was announced by the country’s president, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The White House had expressed concerns publicly and through diplomatic channels in Washington about troubling shipments to Iranian front companies operating in Dubai.
The UAE is among the world’s largest shipping hubs for international commerce, and is located just across the narrow Strait of Hormuz from Iran. The countries have been trading partners for centuries. Much of Iran’s trade flows through Dubai, which also ranked as the top export destination in the Middle East last year for American companies with $12 billion worth of goods.
Dubai business executives had protested the U.S. pressure.
“The regulation of re-exports should be established by the UAE without the threat from the U.S.,” Hamad Buamim, the director general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wrote in a letter to the Bush administration obtained by the AP. “Only the UAE is able to judge the balance of concerns for re-export relative to national security against the risk of the trade moving to another re-export location.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have collected evidence that at least 11 individuals and companies operating in the United Arab Emirates are smuggling electronic components and devices – sometimes through Iran – to build explosive devices used to ambush American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. government effectively banned trade with them. The White House said its proof was based on “specific and articulable facts,” which it did not describe publicly.
The companies include microelectronics manufacturers and industrial suppliers.
Partly to pressure the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. has proposed new restrictions on companies doing business in countries the White House would designate as “destinations of diversion concern.” Those countries, not identified in the proposal, would include prominent shipping hubs with lax export laws. Companies shipping products through such countries would face tougher reviews for export licenses.
The Dubai chamber, which represents 88,000 companies, has bristled at the idea. It said it would be ineffective and inappropriate.
It was not immediately clear what effect the UAE’s new trade law would have on the administration proposal.
Buamim urged the U.S. months ago to withdraw the proposal “while we continue to quietly negotiate in this area.” Buamim said the chamber does not believe the UAE would be included under the U.S. proposal, although he complained the criteria was too vague. “Any country could be put into any category at any time,” Buamim said.
The dispute highlighted the conflicted relationship between the United States and the UAE. The administration considers the emirates a close ally, especially on military matters in the Middle East. But Dubai was forced last year to abandon plans for Dubai-based DP World to take over significant operations at six major U.S. seaports amid intense national criticism.
The companies and individuals the Bush administration identified as shipping electronic components and devices for explosive devices killing U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are:
-Al-Faris of the UAE;
-Ali Akbar Yahya of Dubai;
-Amir Mohammad Zahedi of the UAE;
-Sayed-Ali Hosseini of Dubai;
-Mayrow General Trading of Dubai;
-Micatic General Trading of Dubai;
-Majidco Micro Electronics of Dubai;
-Atlinx Electronics of Dubai;
-Micro Middle East Electronics of Dubai;
-F.N. Yaghmaei of Dubai; and
-H. Ghasir of Dubai.