Middle East

Iran nuclear deal: Dubai leader backs easing of sanctions

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum speaks exclusively to the BBC's Jon Sopel in Dubai: ''Iran is our neighbour and we don't want any problem''

The ruler of Dubai has told the BBC he supports the idea of lifting sanctions against Iran.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, also the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, said everyone would benefit if Iran was given space.

A limited easing of sanctions begins next Monday after the finalising of a deal on Iran's nuclear programme.

However, a Saudi government adviser called Sheik Mohammed's comment's on Iran "mind boggling".

The adviser criticised the Dubai emir for speaking out while the UAE and Iran both claim three disputed islands in the Gulf, that are currently occupied by Iranian forces.

"It's not surprising that the Dubai ruler would say such a misleading statement about Iran. Their main imperative has always been narrow and trade focused," the adviser told the BBC.

"But this will surely not impact [on] the policy of the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council] on Iran and it is mind-boggling that he would say this when the Iranians are still occupying legitimate sovereign islands belonging to their brothers in Abu Dhabi."

Dubai has long had strong trade links with Iran and is home to nearly half a million Iranians.

Sheikh Mohammed told the BBC: "You see, Iran is our neighbour and we don't want any problem. Lift their sanctions and everybody will benefit."

Iran has agreed to allow regular inspections of its nuclear facilities in return for the easing of sanctions. It has always denied assertions by the West that it is trying to produce nuclear weapons.

However, Israel has not ruled out taking military action to stop Iran developing a nuclear capability.

Tougher embargoes

Sheikh Mohammed said former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had reassured him that Tehran had no intention of building a nuclear weapon.

"I think that they're telling the truth when they say [the nuclear programme] is just for civilian power," he said.

"I talked to Ahmadinejad and he said 'if I send a rocket to Israel, how many Palestinians will I kill? And then the US and Europe will destroy my cities. I'm not crazy to go for that. It's a weapon of the past'."

Analysts say Iran has long used Dubai to circumvent sanctions, but tougher embargoes imposed over the past two years have limited that trade.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says not all of Dubai's Arab neighbours share Sheikh Mohammed's view.

Saudi Arabia sees sanctions as a way of controlling Iranian expansion, while Bahrain accuses Tehran of fuelling violent protests in its villages, he says.

Iran has agreed with world powers to halt enrichment of uranium above 5% purity, and "neutralise" its stockpile of near-20%-enriched uranium.

In return, certain sanctions will be suspended on trade in gold and precious metals, Iran's automotive sector, and its petrochemical exports.

Related Topics