WASHINGTON – As controversy raged over the United Arab Emirates' terrorism record, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Thursday with UAE officials in Abu Dhabi and discussed ways to improve U.S.-UAE cooperation in combating terrorism.
"The UAE reaffirmed its stance against terrorism and its commitment to continue to support and cooperate with the international community in this endeavor," the two countries said in a joint statement released by the State Department.
The uproar in Washington concerns a contract the Bush administration gave to a UAE government-owned business — Dubai Ports World — to run significant operations at six of the nation's largest seaports: Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, and Newark, N.J.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had suggested the UAE could not be trusted to fight terrorism because of its past backing for the Taliban and its role in facilitating flows of financial support for the Al Qaeda.
A State Department official said he was not aware of anything in Rice's discussions with UAE Vice President Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid that would affect the ongoing battle in Washington over the ports deal.
The official asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Rice's discussions also touched on U.S.-UAE free trade negotiations, the joint statement said.
It noted that the UAE is the third largest trading partner of the United States in the Middle East.
Rice stopped in Abu Dhabi after visits to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.