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June 16, 2008

UAE terror alert threatens meetings industry

A warning issued this week by the UK Foreign Office of the risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) targeting British nationals could hit growing business confidence in the region, and particularly the increase in business tourism encouraged by a burgeoning meetings and events infrastructure.

The statement from the UK Foreign Office, as part of the government department’s travel advice online missive, worryingly placed the risk level at “high” – the most serious – adding that attacks could happen at any time and may target residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests.

Posted online, the official notice read: "There is a high threat from terrorism. We believe terrorists may be planning to carry out attacks in the UAE.”

However, no details were given as to why there was believed to be a more serious threat than the general one previously issued to UK nationals, but then this is standard Foreign Office protocol.

The warning is particularly surprising, since the UAE has had no record of major terrorism incidents. More reassuring was the comment by the Foreign Office that the "vast majority of visits" to the UAE are "trouble-free".

However, the BBC reported: “Many observers are surprised that Dubai, with its high concentration of westerners and relaxed dress code, has not yet been struck by al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants.”

The threat itself could dent business confidence in the country, and should an incident actually take place, the effects on the economy could be serious.

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