Illness forces Clinton out of Abu Dhabi counter terrorism meeting

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has cancelled a planned trip to the UAE this week because she is suffering from a stomach virus.

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DUBAI // The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has cancelled a trip to the UAE this week because of a stomach virus.

Mrs Clinton, who is due to leave her post next month, was to have attended a ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Abu Dhabi on Friday. She also planned to visit Morocco and Tunisia. Deputy secretary of state William Burns will take her place.

“Since she’s still under the weather we’ll be staying put this week instead of heading to North Africa and the Middle East as originally planned,” said Mrs Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines.

The US will use the trip to boost support for Syrian moderates fighting president Bashar Al Assad's regime.

The Abu Dhabi meeting is expected to feature the launch of an international centre of excellence for countering violent extremism.

On his first stop, in Marrakech tomorrow, Mr Burns is likely to recognise Syria’s opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, officials said.

Mrs Clinton had been expected to make the declaration, which is designed to reward anti-Assad leaders for making their movement more inclusive and render greater US assistance.

Yesterday, the administration took action against the rebel militia Jabhat Al Nusra, which has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings on Syrian government targets and raised fears of growing Islamist extremism among the opposition.

By branding the group a terrorist organisation, the US is freezing any assets Jabhat Al Nusra holds in the US and barring American from doing business with the group.

The action has not been announced officially, but was included in the federal register yesterday.

In the notice, the US state department described the group as part of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Additional reporting Associated Press