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UAE offered UK arms, energy deals for Muslim Brotherhood clampdown: Report

UK announced controversial Brotherhood review less than a year after document suggested UAE should demand change in government's stance
UK Prime Minister David Cameron greets UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed during Commonwealth summit in Abu Dhabi (AFP)

The UAE threatened to pull out of lucrative arms and energy deals with the UK unless it clamped down on the Muslim Brotherhood, according to internal briefing documents seen by The Guardian.

Briefing notes written in June 2012 by Simon Pearce, who handles the Emirati government’s public image, indicate concern in the UAE at the election in Egypt of Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Guardian reported on Friday that, in briefing notes sent to crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Pearce suggested that he press the BBC to alter its coverage of the Brotherhood.

In return, Sheikh bin Zayed was advised to offer to get UK energy giant BP “back in the game” in bidding to drill in oil-rich sands off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.

In a brief emailed statement to MEE on Friday, BP it they had “no comment on this story”.

At the time the briefing document was reportedly written the British energy giant, the world’s sixth-largest oil and gas company, was involved in fragile negotiations with the UAE authorities over rights to continue drilling in a huge onshore gas field in Abu Dhabi.

In November 2012 BP was temporarily forbidden from bidding to renew its contract at the field, reportedly due to criticism by the UK government of a crackdown on Islamists in the UAE.

Less than a year after the UAE’s crown prince was reportedly briefed to offer business deals to the UK in exchange for changing its stance towards the Brotherhood, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced a major review into the organisation’s activities.

The review is being led by Sir John Jenkins, who worked as UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia from June 2012 to January 2015, when he “retired from the Diplomatic Service” according to a foreign office statement.

The review, which has taken over two and a half years to deliver, has been mired in controversy, with UK government officials saying last December that the final report “will say that the Brotherhood is not a terrorist organisation”.

“The Saudis and Emiratis will then be very upset with us,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Financial Times.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt have all listed the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 but is now an international organisation, as a “terrorist” group.

During a visit to the UK this week by Egypt’s President Sisi, who has led a harsh crackdown on supporters of the group, David Cameron promised that the main findings of the long-awaited report would be released “within the year”.