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04ABUDHABI3783 2004-10-24 08:57:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abu Dhabi
Cable title:  

HBZ AND MBZ DISCUSS IRAQ, IRAN, SAUDI ARABIA WITH

Tags:   ECON ETRD EFIN PREL PTER IZ TC 
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1. (C) Summary: Septel covers the trade and investment
aspects of USTR Zoellick's October 13 visit to the UAE.
During their meetings, UAEG leaders also discussed the
political/security challenges facing the region. Sheikh
Hamdan bin Zayed stressed his concerns about Iraqi
instability and the threat of Iran. Sheikh Mohammed bin
Zayed discussed Saudi instability and the need for
educational reform in the Arab world. Ambassador Zoellick
used the opportunity to explain the broader goals of an
FTA, including supporting reform in the region. End
Summary.



2. (C) On October 13, Ambassador Zoellick met with Deputy
Prime Minister/Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh
Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Abu Dhabi Deputy Crown
Prince and Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Sheikh Mohammed bin
Zayed Al-Nahyan. They discussed improving trade relations
between the two countries and the prospects for moving
forward with an FTA (septel). Ambassador Zoellick also
took the opportunity to thank his hosts for their broader
political/security cooperation with the USG and to get
their sense of the challenges facing the region. The UAE
hosts raised Iraq, Iran, terrorism, Saudi instability, and
the urgent need for educational reform.

Iraq


--------------------------





3. (C) Sheikh Hamdan explained that the UAE Embassy in
Baghdad followed Iraqi matters closely and that the UAEG
was seeing efforts by Iran and various power groups in Iraq
to destabilize the country. These elements were likely to
step up their efforts to destabilize Iraq in the run up to
the elections. He added however, that he hoped that the
elections would give the IIG additional legitimacy and that
this would help reduce the violence. Ambassador Zoellick
noted that he had met with the IIG's Minster of Finance and
the Central Bank Governor and had been impressed with their
commitment. He stressed that the USG appreciated all of
the UAEG's assistance to Iraq. Sheikh Hamdan noted that
the UAE had strong relations with the power blocks in Iraq
and that relations with PM Alawi were close and personal.
The UAE was fully supportive of Iraq and would remain so.

Iran


--------------------------





4. (C) Sheikh Hamdan turned to the Iranian threat to
regional stability. He explained that Iran's "children of
the revolution and extremists" had not "given the reformers
or President Khatami the opportunity to move in the right
direction." Sheikh Hamdan emphasized that Iran's strategic
agenda was to acquire a WMD capacity. He implored the USG
to prevent this, adding that the Iranians were interfering
in Iraq and that the USG should not allow this either.

Terrorism


--------------------------





5. (C) Ambassador Zoellick's second meeting of the day was
with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. Sheikh Mohammed explained
that terrorism was a major threat for the UAE. It was
important to face it preemptively and not to wait for a
major incident. He stressed that, thus far, the UAE had
been successful, detaining close to 30 Al-Qaida operatives,
many of whom were transiting the UAE. He noted that the
UAE had excellent cooperation with its (non-national)
residents and with its allies. He observed, however, that
sometimes it appeared that Al-Qaida's activities appeared
more effective and coordinated than those of some of the
governments attempting to confront them. (Note: MBZ
appeared to have Saudi Arabia in mind.)

Regional Instability - Saudi Arabia


--------------------------





6. (C) Sheikh Mohammed termed Saudi Arabia as "very
unstable," saying this should be a source of concern for
the region and the world. He noted that "few observers
liked the way" the Saudis were running their country, but
added that the current leadership was "the best we have."



7. (C) Sheikh Mohammed voiced strong concern that if the
Saudi government fell, whoever followed would take the path
of extremist Islam. If religious extremists took control
over the holy sites they could issue fatwas saying that the
leaders of tolerant countries such as the UAE (i.e.
tolerant) were apostates or unbelievers and subject to
attack. Sheikh Mohammed explained that the Saudis needed
help, but that the USG should not "push them over the
edge." He noted that the cultures of the UAE and KSA were
very close. The big difference, he noted, was that the
Saudis had not been able to get out of their "closed
circle." They did not want to engage the world, whereas
the Emiratis did. Ambassador Zoellick used the opportunity
to stress how the USG viewed free trade and an FTA as a way
to try and help people and countries that were reforming
their societies. Trade could support economic development,
which could provide some hope for a future to Arab
societies.

Education Reform


--------------------------





8. (C) Sheikh Mohammed also stressed the need for education
reform in the Middle East. He noted that Arabs needed to
resolve the problem with the Islamic studies curriculum
themselves. At the same time, it was important to improve
the overall quality of the educational system, especially
in math and the sciences. He explained that the Saudi
educational system was managed with the "ideas of the
Wahabis." He noted that the UAE educational curriculum had
been written by Egyptians, many influenced by the Muslim
Brotherhood, and that the UAE was in the process of
reforming it.



9. (C) Ambassador Zoellick used this opportunity to quote
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, who had said
that the battle for the soul of Islam was one that would
need to be won by Muslims themselves. The way that the
U.S. could help, was by using trade to support economic
development and economic reform. The UAE, as an open,
tolerant society could serve as a model for the region.

Ambassador Zoellick's party cleared this cable.

Albright