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U.S. Dubai mission trims services after warning

The U.S. consulate in Dubai was closed Wednesday to public business after a security alert from local authorities.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.S. consulate in Dubai was closed Wednesday to public business after a security alert from local authorities, but the top police official said an investigation found no direct evidence of a threat in the Gulf's commercial hub.

The American decision to publicly acknowledge the warning could potentially upset Dubai's leaders, who are extremely sensitive about any hints of instability that could threaten the city's extensive business and property markets or its growing image as a luxury tourism destination.

Dubai's police chief, Maj. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, told The Associated Press that security forces detained a Sudanese man on Tuesday following an anonymous telephone tip that he was planning "some kind of action" against the consulate.

But there was no apparent plot uncovered after interrogating the suspect, said Tamim. He declined to give further details about the probe or whether the suspect remained in custody.

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.

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 southwest of Dubai.

No major incidents in UAE
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.