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Opposition to port pact called bias in Emirates

US reply irks some in a friendly state

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- To many in this booming financial center, the US backlash over Dubai running six American ports boils down to something simple -- and ugly: ''This is Arab-phobia," an Arab security analyst said. ''I can see no other reason behind it."

Mustafa Alani, a security analyst with the Gulf Research Center, based in Dubai, said that rejecting the pact would not only tarnish relations between the Emirates and Washington, but also set the wider Arab world on edge, including other moderate allies like Jordan.

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads here for talks, many Arabs say the very basis of US policy toward the Middle East may be at stake: If the United States cannot work with a moderate, friendly and socially liberal Arab ally like Dubai, it may not be able to work with any Arabs at all.

''If the American politicians were smart, they would hold Dubai up as a role model," said Abdul Khaleq Abdulla, a political scientist at Emirates University.

Among other things, the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is one part, allows the United States to base US Air Force spy planes and refueling flights here and allows US warships to visit. It also has handed over terror suspects arrested on its territory.

Nevertheless, US lawmakers pledged to try to head off the accord. They say that Dubai has been a financial and operations base for terrorists, and that this means state-owned Dubai Ports World should be blocked from its $6.8 million purchase of Britain's Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which now operates six US ports.

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