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UAE to be first Arab country with NATO embassy

The United Arab Emirates is to make a landmark move, becoming the first Arab country to send an ambassador to NATO, Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Wednesday.

“We’re very happy that the United Arab Emirates is to become the first Arab country to open an embassy at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Mr. Sikorski told reporters after talks with his visiting UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Accrediting an ambassador to NATO is seen as a key step for countries seeking to cement ties with the 28-nation, trans-Atlantic alliance.

At the alliance’s Brussels headquarters, deputy spokesperson Carmen Romero noted that the UAE’s move was yet to receive a final green light.

“The allies are in the process of examining the United Arab Emirates’ request to open a diplomatic mission,” Ms. Romero told AFP.

“This request falls within the new NATO partnership policy approved by NATO members’ foreign ministers at their meeting in Berlin on April 14-15,” she noted.

A NATO diplomat, however, said the alliance was set to make a formal decision this week.

The UAE already belongs to NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, launched at an alliance summit in the Turkish city in 2004, which aims to bolster bilateral security cooperation with countries in the Middle East.

The UAE and Gulf neighbor Qatar are unusual in the Arab world in that they are both taking part in the NATO-led military campaign against Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya.

The UAE is poised to host a new meeting of the International Contact Group, which includes all the countries participating in the Libya operation.

“We’re very delighted to have Poland as part of the Contact Group,” Sheikh Abdullah told reporters.

Last week, Mr. Sikorski, travelled to the Libyan rebel capital Benghazi to show support for the uprising against the regime.

“Colonel Qaddafi’s time is up,” he said on Wednesday.

“We’re going to help the National Transitional Council prepare the country for democratization,” he added, referring to the Libyan rebels’ governing body.

Poland underwent its own transition to democracy after the fall of its communist regime in 1989.

It has long lent its expertise to other nations that have emerged from dictatorship, stepping up efforts amid the Arab Spring.

The Polish government has said that boosting ties with the Middle East will form a crucial plank of its European Union presidency in the second half of this year.