UAE readies for Queen's first visit in 30 years

Gulf state prepares lavish welcome for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II; plans to visit Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque.

Queen Elizabeth 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Queen Elizabeth 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Emirati leaders prepared a lavish welcome Wednesday for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who is making her first state visit in more than 30 years to a country with deep British ties.
The state-run WAM news agency said the monarch's brief visit will include a 21-gun salute and a special tour of Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque.
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The 84-year-old queen is expected to be accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague — underscoring the region's strategic significance.
Britain's historical links to the area stretch back to the 19th century. The UAE became a nation in 1971 after more than 100 years under British protection as part of a truce to protect ships sailing the important trade routes to India.
Britain also played a key role in building the UAE military and other institutions.
The queen last visited the UAE in 1979 before the country underwent a stunning economic expansion that has drawn workers and companies from around the world, including more than 100,000 Britons and 4,000 British businesses.
She plans to travel Thursday to neighboring Oman.
In Abu Dhabi, the British foreign secretary is expected to sign a number of pacts including a nuclear cooperation accord with Emirati leaders. The UAE's first nuclear reactors are being built by a South Korean consortium with the first phase expected to begin operations in 2017.
In an apparent jab at Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, Hague praised the UAE's nuclear program is "based on transparency and international cooperation."
"It is a model that we would encourage other states in the Middle East to emulate," he wrote in the Dubai-based Gulf News on Wednesday.
The queen's schedule in the UAE includes formally launching a project for a new National Museum, which is being developed by partners including the British Museum.
She also plans to visit the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the world. The complex includes the tomb of the late Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the UAE and host of her last visit.