DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The U.S. consulate in Dubai was closed Wednesday to public business after an alert from local authorities making a rare acknowledgment of possible security risks in the Gulf's commercial hub.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman, Steven Pike, said the decision to temporarily scale back operations at the consulate was based on "information from Dubai authorities," but declined to give further details about the warning.
U.S. officials are "continually reviewing" the security situation and the consulate could resume normal operations Thursday, said Pike, speaking from the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Dubai.
A Dubai police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed local authorities had warned U.S. diplomats about a potential security threat. The official also declined to give any additional details.
But it was an unusual warning by Dubai authorities, who are extremely sensitive to any hints of instability that could threaten its extensive business and property markets or its growing image as a luxury tourism destination.
There have been no major terrorist incidents in the Emirates, but officials in neighboring Saudi Arabia have waged large-scale crackdowns on suspected al-Qaida networks and other militant groups there after attacks on foreigners in recent years.
In June, Britain raised its terror warning to the highest level for its citizens living in the Emirates, saying at the time that "attacks could be indiscriminate and could happen at any time."
The U.S. consulate, located in a Dubai high-rise tower that includes businesses and other diplomatic offices, was closed for American citizen services and visa interviews, said an announcement issued by the embassy late Tuesday.
The statement did not elaborate on the nature of the security information. It was issued just hours after U.S. President Barack Obama took the oath of office.
There was no additional security visible around the Dubai tower that includes the consulate and there was no public notification about any change in services.
The embassy remained open for regular business and the Dubai consulate could provide emergency services for Americans if needed, Pike said.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are part of a confederation of seven city-states making up the United Arab Emirates, a close U.S. ally. Dubai is a major financial center in the Middle East and home to large numbers of expatriates from around the world.