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US President George Bush tied the Dubai ports deal with the war on terror and warned Friday that the collapse of the deal might hurt the US's efforts to recruit Middle Eastern counties to support the war on terror.
The deal, in which a UAE company - Dubai Ports World - was supposed to take charge of six US sea ports, fell through last week following tough criticism from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. The Dubai company announced it would hand over its US operations to an American entity, thus putting an end to the debate and ending the deal.
Speaking at the National Newspaper Association conference in Washington, President Bush said that he is concerned "about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East", adding that "in order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our friendships and relationships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East'.
The US has a long standing relationship with the UAE, which includes servicing US navy ships in the region and intelligence cooperation which led, among others, to the disclosure of the A.Q. Khan network which sold nuclear technology from Pakistan to countries around the world. In his remarks Friday, President Bush said he will have to work now to restore the relationship with the UAE which is, according to Bush "a committed ally in the war on terror".
But at the same time, talks between US and UAE representatives on a new free trade agreement between the two countries which were scheduled for Monday were put off, without setting a new date. Both sides would not give a reason for canceling the talks, but it is clear that the tension between the US and UAE is one of the reasons for the delay. Members of Congress also pointed out last week that the fact that the UAE adheres to the Arab Boycott, should be taken into consideration while discussing a free trade agreement with the country.
The cancellation of the Dubai Ports deal is seen as a blow to President Bush and the administration, which argued all the time that the deal was considered carefully and does not pose any threat to the US national security. But Bush faced not only harsh criticism from the Democrats but also from his own party's members who voted overwhelmingly against the deal.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who also supported the Dubai deal, said on Friday that the US will need to double its efforts now "to send a strong message that we value our allies, our moderate allies, in the Middle East".