UAE shutters offices of US-backed democracy group

As secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked hard late Saturday to focus attention on deepening security ties with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf

Written by New York Times | Riyadh | Published:April 2, 2012 1:02 am

STEVEN LEE MYERS

As secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked hard late Saturday to focus attention on deepening security ties with the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf,she found herself having to deal with a surprising act of diplomatic defiance: the decision by the United Arab Emirates,an ally,to shutter the offices of an US-financed group that promotes democracy.

So far,the UAE have not publicly explained their actions against the organisation,the National Democratic Institute,which only recently was one of several nonprofits prosecuted in Egypt amid concerns about what many Egyptians perceive as foreign meddling.

The move by the UAE was not as shocking as that by the Egyptians — in that case,the son of a Cabinet member was charged in criminal court. But it was especially provocative,coming just before Clinton arrived in the region for talks with the UAE and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The State Department on Saturday defended the National Democratic Institute’s work in the UAE,while an official with the group in the United States expressed some bafflement since he said it did not do democracy-building work in the country. Les Campbell,the regional director for the Middle East and North Africa,said the office in Dubai,one of the emirates,was used to coordinate work in nearby countries,including Saudi Arabia.

A German organisation that was also targeted in Egypt,the Konrad Adenauer Foundation,recently closed its office in the UAE at the demand of the country’s foreign ministry.

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