Early action kept crisis under control

'Precautionary measures' have enabled UAE to carry on with vital projects and international relief programmes, says the Foreign Minister.

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NEW YORK // Prompt steps to protect the national economy enabled the UAE to stave off the worst of the global financial crisis, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, told the UN General Assembly.

Through "early and precautionary measures, including monetary, financial and economic measures" the country was able to contain the crisis and continue financing its productive base and vital projects, including development and humanitarian aid programmes. "You perhaps share our view that there are positive signs of recovery of some economies from the implications of the international economic crisis," he said.

"But certainly, the transition from stagnation to recovery will not be easy. This is particularly true with the significant scars left by this crisis, which require concerted and sustained national and international efforts." Despite the crisis, the UAE had maintained its humanitarian, relief and development assistance programmes in many countries, said the minister, as well as contributing to efforts by regional agencies and international organisations to counter the effects of "high food prices, poverty, illiteracy and the spread of diseases".

Sheikh Abdullah also praised the multilateral approach adopted by Barack Obama during the US president's annual address to the General Assembly last week, noting "with satisfaction the positive positions expressed" by the American leader. Mr Obama's debut at UN headquarters on Wednesday won rounds of applause as he signalled changes to a discredited US foreign policy, urging his audience of some 120 national leaders to cease viewing "America with scepticism and distrust".

"We believe that his address contains solid foundations for negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israeli government and we hope that Mr Obama will continue following up this important dossier," Sheikh Abdullah told delegates during his 12-minute address. Sheikh Abdullah mentioned some of the Government's other big international concerns ranging from Iran's nuclear programme to climate change and Iranian occupation of the greater and lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa islands, as well as efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the UAE's atomic programme as an example for countries seeking civilian nuclear programmes. "The UAE hopes that developing a peaceful nuclear energy model which complies with the highest standards of transparency ... will chart a new course for a large group of countries for the safe use of nuclear energy, with international support," he said. He also highlighted efforts to safeguard the rights of women and labourers.

"My Government has recently adopted a set of policies and measures aimed at enhancing labour protection in many aspects including wages, housing and reducing the impact of the international economic crisis," he said. Sheikh Abdullah also mentioned the national sense of pride that came from winning the vote to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) in Masdar City, on the outskirts of the capital.

He said the first global agency to be headquartered in the Arab world would help find "solutions for climate change, reduce harmful emissions, maintain the safety and security of our planet and disseminate the applications of renewable energy". He added that it was "a proof of our entry into the post-oil era and affirms our readiness to shoulder our international responsibilities and help the world to face challenges related to diversifying energy sources", and "emphasises our keen interest to utilise our petroleum wealth in securing additional sources of energy".

Diplomatic officials said Sheikh Abdullah was holding more than 40 bilateral meetings with leaders from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia during his 10-day visit to New York before heading for a 13-nation tour of Latin America. This year's event at the UN attracted some 120 world leaders. It also featured a rambling 94-minute tirade from the Libyan leader, Muammer Qadafi, and anti-Israel rhetoric from Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.