Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum has called for an end to sanctions on Iran in a rare interview with the BBC.
Asked whether he thought it was time to lift sanctions against Iran, Sheikh Mohammed said “I think so”. Sheikh Mohammed is also the Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates.
“Iran is our neighbor and we don't want any problem,” he told the BBC.
Dubai is a major re-export hub for goods to Iran, with its bustling creek lined with wooden dhow boats that ferry items to the emirate’s northern neighbor.
Experts say Dubai and the wider UAE stand to benefit from an easing of sanctions on Iran.
“If there’s an opening with Iran, then that opening would have to involve Dubai,” Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Al Arabiya News in December. “Dubai and the UAE are poised to benefit greatly if there’s an opening of trade and commerce with Iran.”
Iran is expected to get a relaxation of financial sanctions that have crippled its economy, under an interim agreement drawn up last November.
Officials said on Sunday that Iran has agreed to open its nuclear program to daily inspection by international experts starting from Jan. 20.
Iran is set to receive the first $550 million installment of $4.2bn in seized oil revenue on or around Feb. 1, Reuters reported.
On the topic of Egypt, Sheikh Mohammed – a major financial backer of Egypt after the downfall of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi – said the Egyptian army chief was better off staying in the military instead of running for president.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed Mursi after mass protests against his rule in July, gave his clearest indication yet that he will run for the presidency in comments on Saturday.
“I hope he stays in the army. And someone else (stands) for the presidency,” Sheikh Mohammed said, adding that Egypt was better off without Mursi.
Also discussed during the interview was the UAE trial of American Shezanne Cassim , who was detained in April and sentenced to a year in prison in the Gulf Arab state in December on cybercrime charges for his video, a 20-minute “mockumentary” that pokes fun at young Emirati men who imitate U.S. hip-hop culture.
Sheikh Mohammed said the treatment of Casim was unfair, and suggested it was a mistake the UAE would learn from.
Asked by the British broadcaster BBC whether Cassim had been treated fairly, Sheikh Mohammed said: “No ... We are not perfect and we try to change it. Any mistakes, we go in and try to change it. We’re not perfect, but we are doing our best.”