Under a deal struck in November, Iran is expected to curb its
nuclear activity in exchange for a limited easing of the
international sanctions. The pact will come into force January 20,
Iran and world powers agreed on Sunday.
Asked whether he thought it was time to lift the sanctions, Sheikh
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the Prime Minister of
the United Arab Emirates, told British broadcaster the BBC:
"I think so and give Iran a space... Iran is our neighbor and we
don't want any problem, he said, adding that "everybody will
Despite a decade of sanctions, Iran has managed to get most of the
commodities and goods it needs via Dubai's flourishing re-export
market, although new embargoes imposed by the United States and its
allies in late 2011 and early 2012 have hit it hard.
The vast majority of trade between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors
is routed through Dubai, home to tens of thousands of ethnic
Iranians and one of seven emirates making up the United Arab
Iran says its atomic energy program is aimed purely at electricity
generation and other civilian purposes, although past Iranian
attempts to hide sensitive nuclear activity from U.N.
non-proliferation inspectors raised concerns.
"I think they're telling the truth when they say just for civilian
power," Sheikh Mohammed said in the interview.
SISI SHOULD STAY IN ARMY
Shortly after the November 24 deal, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad
Javad Zarif went to the UAE to try and improve relations with the
Across the Gulf from Iran, the UAE stands to benefit directly from
any easing of sanctions under the nuclear deal that have dampened
Zarif met Sheikh Mohammed during his December visit and the UAE was
the first Gulf Arab state to cautiously welcome November's nuclear
deal. The UAE foreign minister flew to Iran days after the agreement
was signed, on a trip planned before the deal, calling for a
partnership with the Islamic Republic.
The six Sunni Muslim-ruled members of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) are wary of Iranian power in the Middle East, fearing the
Shi'ite Muslim-led country is seeking regional dominance and
stirring sectarian tension. Tehran denies this.
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But they have also welcomed Iran's "new direction" under President
Hassan Rouhani and said Tehran should do more to promote stability
in the region.
Sheikh Mohammed also said Egypt, which is due to vote on a
constitutional referendum this week, was better off without Islamist
President Mohamed Mursi who was deposed by the army in July after
mass protests against his rule.
The UAE is deeply mistrustful of the Muslim Brotherhood and
relations soured when Mursi became Egypt's first freely elected
president after the downfall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The UAE, along with Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, have championed
army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who deposed Mursi, and have
poured billions of dollars to shore up the country's beleaguered
economy since Mursi's downfall.
There has been widespread speculation about whether Sisi, who is
depicted by his supporters as a savior who will restore stability to
the shaken country, would run for presidential elections slated for
later this year.
Sheikh Mohammed said Sisi was better off in the army, saying: "I
hope he stays in the army. And someone else (stands) for the
On Syria, Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE was only comfortable
supporting displaced Syrians in Jordan and Turkey, as opposed to
providing support to rebel groups, some of whom are extremist in
($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirhams)
(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; editing by William Maclean and Jon Boyle)
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