Spotlight on exile to the Emirates

There is no shortage of speculation that Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak could join the list.

The Dubai-based network Al-Arabiya reported on Saturday that the former Egyptian president was making plans to head to the Emirates. A Kuwait daily, Al-Qabas, on Friday said UAE officials have offered Mubarak haven in Al Ain, a desert city near the Omani border.
UAE officials have made no public comment on the reports, which were so persistent that the UAE’s state news agency WAM issued a rare denial on Sunday of bulletins that Mubarak’s plane had landed in the Sharjah emirate north of Dubai.

But it would not be out of character to open their doors to a former leader with few options at home — just as neighbouring Saudi Arabia did for toppled Tunisian ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last month and Uganda’s Idi Amin in 1979.

The roster of Emirate exiles includes former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, late Pakistani ex-premier Benazir Bhutto and a turncoat Chechen warlord who was gunned down by a killer with a gold-plated pistol.

“It would not be a surprise if Mubarak ends up in the UAE. They have taken in others before,” said Theodore Karasik, a regional security expert at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai. “The UAE was a loyal friend of Mubarak and this would be a reflection of that.”

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