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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08ABUDHABI1244 2008-10-30 12:19:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Abu Dhabi
Cable title:  

WELCOMING SECRETARY SPELLINGS TO ABU DHABI

Tags:   PREL PGOV ECON SCUL AE 
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VZCZCXRO9051
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHAD #1244/01 3041219
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301219Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1679
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF EDUCATION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 8009
RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABU DHABI 001244 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON SCUL PGOV AE
SUBJECT: WELCOMING SECRETARY SPELLINGS TO ABU DHABI

REF: A) ABU DHABI 619 (MAY 18 CONVERSATION WITH MBZ)

ABU DHABI 00001244 001.2 OF 002




1. (U) Madame Secretary, the U.S. Mission to the United Arab
Emirates warmly welcomes your return visit, which presents an
opportunity to follow up on your prior interaction with UAE Minister
of Education Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qasimi ("Dr. Hanif") and assess
progress on the UAE's ambitious plans for education reform.



2. (SBU) You last met Dr. Hanif when he was in Washington for the
September 19 "Inclusive Practices for Students with Disabilities
Summit." The UAE Embassy also organized a press conference and
luncheon at the Ritz Carlton focused on reform, at which Dr. Hanif
explained a major review of K-12 education in the UAE. The UAE
indeed seeks to revamp education with some emphasis on U.S. models
(see paragraph five); the Ministry and education councils in the
various emirates are setting up model schools and public private
partnership schools while reviewing operations, facilities, teacher
qualifications, and learning resources. Upgrading education is an
imperative for the UAE, which in spite of its small size wants
future citizens and leaders to meet the demands of an increasingly
global agenda.



3. (SBU) The UAE continues to punch above its weight as a small and
in many ways developing nation with global ambitions. The citizen
population of about 900 thousand (less than 20% of the 5 million
resident population) faces the myriad challenges of running a
complex nation in the 21st century -- with education as a core focus
that the UAE must calibrate to support its long-range
nation-building plans while keeping tabs on the social implications
of changes in the education system. On the one hand, added
attention to vocational skills and the English language are critical
to national economic survival; on the other, the erosion of Arabic
studies and the traditional humanities may contribute to the
nation's ongoing identity crisis. You will see, as you did in May,
a concerted effort to balance these sometimes competing national
requirements.



4. (SBU) Our bilateral relations with the UAE are broad, deep and
enduring. On the security front, we have enjoyed particularly close
military engagement for two decades and continue to coordinate on a
wide array of common national security interests. The UAE is a key
partner, intent on cooperating with us to create a stable economic,
political, and security environment in a troubled region. Concerned
about regional proliferation, the UAE has been responsive on export
control issues. UAE support for Iraq continues to grow, in the
forms of debt relief, reciprocal visits, dispatching an Ambassador,
and ongoing efforts to use their political influence to bring about
stability. Similar shared interests with regard to Lebanon, the
Palestinian Authority, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere keep our
two nations closely engaged in daily strategic diplomacy.



5. (SBU) The UAE commitment to American scholastic models in
primary, secondary and higher education, a generally high respect
for the value of American education, and continued support for
Emirati nationals studying in the U.S. are positive signs of our
cooperation. The UAE has sought to fill the shortage of higher
education services in country by encouraging (rhetorically and
financially) American colleges to open branch campuses in the UAE.
However, perceptions about visa and airport difficulties, and
concerns about encountering negative stereotypes of Arabs and
Muslims in the U.S., continue to unsettle and discourage potential
students and their parents. Mission UAE issued 639 student visas
(F-1) to Emirati nationals in 2007. Other Anglophone countries
attract more Emirati students and those countries are devoting
increasing resources to focused outreach and marketing toward
Emirati and other Gulf audiences. U.S. student numbers are rising,
and may reach their pre-9/11 levels in 2009, though that would not
equal the historic highs of the 1990s.



6. (SBU) In the past five years, the UAE has emerged as an economic
powerhouse in the region (our largest export market in the Middle
East) and has attained a commensurate level of political influence.
Regional leaders look to Abu Dhabi and Dubai for assistance and
political support, while Washington and other Western capitals also
increasingly seek the UAE's views. The strength of relations with
the U.S. is evident in the string of high level USG visitors --
including the President in January 2008.



7. (SBU) Despite its resource wealth and exponential growth, the
UAE has not been immune to the international economic downturn.
Stocks have been battered, liquidity is tight and consumer
confidence has declined. The UAEG took a number of steps in October
to restore confidence: insuring bank deposits, creating a bank
liquidity fund, and reassuring the public that the government was
ready and willing to support the economy. Despite these steps,
investors remain concerned about local market conditions,
particularly Dubai's financial situation and the possibility of a
sharp correction in Dubai's large, overheated real estate sector.



8. (SBU) For its part, Abu Dhabi's investment portfolio has no

ABU DHABI 00001244 002.2 OF 002


doubt taken a multi-billion dollar hit in recent weeks, although the
rapid pace of development has yet to slow down noticeably. The
highest profile investments continue to be driven by wholly or
partly state-owned entities, with the weaker private sector largely
benefiting from the government's largesse. Most here remain
optimistic about the UAE's economic future, partly in view of their
optimism that U.S. economic fundamentals will remain strong and a
close U.S.-UAE relationship will stand them in good stead.



9. (U) Again, we welcome your visit as an opportunity to focus on
the strength of our bilateral relations and to expand engagement in
the area of education in particular.

OLSON