3 Egyptian officials fly to UAE to discuss arrests

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 02, 2013 17:30 hrs

Three senior Egyptian officials flew to the United Arab Emirates Wednesday to discuss the arrest of 11 Egyptians accused of forming a Muslim Brotherhood cell in the emirate, Cairo airport officials said.

A statement from Egypt's president said one of the envoys, Essam el-Haddad, presidential adviser for foreign affairs and international cooperation, was carrying a letter from President Mohammed Morsi to the UAE President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Later Wednesday, airport officials said Maj. Gen. Mohammed Rifaat Shehata, the head of Egypt's intelligence services, traveled to the Emirates.

Morsi is from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has emerged as Egypt's most powerful political force in the aftermath of the uprising that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

The statement from the president's office did not disclose the contents of the letter. It said el-Haddad will also meet officials in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The UAE's Al-Khaleej newspaper reported Tuesday that the 11 Egyptians were arrested last month after allegedly collecting security information about the UAE, holding secret meetings, recruiting members and sending large amounts of money to Brotherhood leaders in Cairo.

All political parties or groups are banned in the tightly controlled UAE.

Relations between the Emirates and Egypt have taken a sharp downward turn after the rise of Islamists to power in Egypt. The rich Gulf nation has cracked down on Islamists from other Arab countries in its territory since the outbreak of protests against Arab leaders in the region nearly two years ago.

The crackdown prompted some Islamists in Egypt to sharply criticize the Emirates, which had warm relations with the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Envoys are expected to discuss relations between the two countries, which soured further after Egyptian presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq flew to the UAE soon after he narrowly lost to Morsi in Egypt's presidential elections last year.

Litigation against Shafiq followed his departure, with a number of investigations and court cases accusing him of corruption during his long political career under Mubarak.

News media in the two countries reported accusations about alleged conspiracies against each other, including rumors of a plan to kidnap Morsi and take him to the UAE. The rumors peaked when thousands of Egyptians demonstrated in front of Morsi's palace last month, protesting a draft constitution and a presidential decree giving Morsi wider powers.

In September, Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, warned of an "international plot" to overthrow the Gulf governments by Islamists inspired by the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The UAE has not faced street protests during Arab Spring upheavals, but authorities have stepped up arrests and pressure on groups including an Islamist organization, Al Islah, accused of undermining the country's ruling system.

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