US DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
BACKGROUND NOTES:  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

July 1991
Official Name:  United Arab Emirates

PROFILE

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--UAE, Emirian, or Emiri.  Population 
(1990 est.): 1.8 million.  Annual growth rate: 2.8%.  Ethnic groups: 
Arab, Pakistani, Indian, Iranian, Filipino  (15-20% of residents are UAE 
citizens).  Religions: Muslim (90%), Hindu, Christian.  Languages: 
Arabic (official), English, Hindi, Urdu, Persian.  Education: Years 
compulsory--ages 6-12.  Literacy (UAE citizens)--about 60%. Life 
expectancy: About 63 yrs.  Work force (1990) 650,000 (90% foreign): 
Agriculture--6%.  Industry and commerce--65%.  Services--16%.  
Government--13%.

Geography

Area: 82,880 sq. km. (30,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Maine.  Cities 
(1990 est.): Capital--Abu Dhabi (pop. over 500,000); Dubai (pop. over 
400,000).  Terrain: Largely desert with some agricultural areas.  
Climate: Hot, humid, low annual rainfall.

Government

Type: Federation of emirates.  Independence: December 2, 1971. 
Provisional constitution: December 2, 1971.
Branches: Executive--7-member Supreme Council of Rulers, which elects 
president and vice president.  Legislative--40-member Federal National 
Council (consultative only).  Judicial--Islamic and secular courts.
Administrative subdivisions: Seven largely self-governing city-states.
Political parties: None.  Suffrage: None.
Central government budget (1990): $4.3 billion.
Flag: A vertical red stripe on the staff side and three horizontal 
stripes--green, white, and black from top to bottom--on the right.

Economy

GDP (1990): $34 billion.  Annual growth rate (23%).  Per capita GDP 
(1990): $21,335.  Inflation rate (1990 est.): 10%.
Natural resource: Oil.
Agriculture (1.5% of 1990 GDP): Products--vegetables, dates, dairy 
products, poultry.
Petroleum: (46% of 1990 GDP.)
Other industry: (7.5% of 1990 GDP). 
Services: (45% of 1990 GDP): Trade, government, real estate.
Trade (1990 est.): Exports--$21 billion: petroleum, gas, and petroleum 
products.  Major markets--EC, Japan, US (4%).  Imports--$12 billion: 
machinery, consumer goods, food.  Major suppliers--Western Europe, 
Japan, US (8%).
Official exchange rate: US$1=3.67 dirhams.
Foreign economic aid (1973 through 1989): In excess of $15 billion.

Membership in International Organizations

UN and several of its specialized agencies (ICAO, ILO, UPU, WHO, WIPO), 
World Bank, IMF, Arab League, Organization of the Islamic Conference, 
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Organization of Arab 
Petroleum Exporting Countries, Non-Aligned Movement.

PEOPLE

Only 15-20% of the total population of 1.8 million are UAE citizens.  
The rest include significant numbers of other Arabs--Palestinians, 
Egyptians, Jordanians, Yemenis, Omanis--as well as many Iranians, 
Pakistanis, Indians, Filipinos, and West Europeans.

The majority of UAE citizens are Sunni Muslims with a small Shia 
minority.  Most foreigners also are Muslim, although Hindus and 
Christians make up a portion of the UAE's foreign population.

Educational standards among UAE citizens population are rising rapidly.  
Citizens and temporary residents have taken advantage of facilities 
throughout the country.  The UAE University in Al Ain had roughly 10,000 
students in 1990.  A network of technical-vocational colleges opened in 
1989.

HISTORY

The UAE was formed from the group of tribally-organized Arabian 
Peninsula shaikhdoms along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and 
the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman.  This area was converted to 
Islam in the 7th century; for centuries it was embroiled in dynastic 
disputes.  It became known as the Pirate Coast as raiders based there 
harassed foreign shipping, although both European and Arab navies 
patrolled the area from the 17th century into the 19th century.  Early 
British expeditions to protect the India trade from raiders at Ras al-
Khaimah led to campaigns against that headquarters and other harbors 
along the coast in 1819.  The next year, a general peace treaty was 
signed to which all the principal shaikhs of the coast adhered.  Raids 
continued intermittently until 1835, when the shaikhs agreed not to 
engage in hostilities at sea.  In 1853, they signed a treaty with the 
United Kingdom, under which the shaikhs (the "Trucial Shaikhdoms") 
agreed to a "perpetual maritime truce."  It was enforced by the United 
Kingdom, and disputes among shaikhs were referred to the British for 
settlement.

Primarily in reaction to the ambitions of other European countries, the 
United Kingdom and the Trucial Shaikhdoms established closer bonds in an 
1892 treaty, similar to treaties entered into by the UK with other Gulf 
principalities.  The shaikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory 
except to the United Kingdom and not to enter into relationships with 
any foreign government other than the United Kingdom without its 
consent.  In return, the British promised to protect the Trucial Coast 
from all aggression by sea and to help out in case of land attack.

In 1955, the United Kingdom sided with Abu Dhabi in the latter's dispute 
with Saudi Arabia over the Buraimi Oasis and other territory to the 
south.  A 1974 agreement between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia would have 
settled the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute; however, the agreement has 
yet to be ratified by the UAE Government and apparently is not 
recognized by the Saudi Government.  The border with Oman also remains 
unsettled.

In 1968, the UK announced its decision, reaffirmed in March 1971, to end 
the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial Shaikhdoms which had 
been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection.  The 
nine attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but by mid-1971 they 
were unable to agree on terms of union, even though the termination date 
of the British treaty relationship was the end of 1971.  Bahrain became 
independent in August and Qatar in September 1971.  When the British-
Trucial Shaikhdoms treaty expired on December 1, 1971, they became fully 
independent.  On December 2, 1971, six of them entered into a union 
called the United Arab Emirates.  The seventh, Ras al-Khaimah, joined in 
early 1972.

GOVERNMENT

Administratively, the UAE is a loose federation of seven emirates, each 
with its own ruler.  The pace at which local government in each emirate 
evolves from traditional to modern is set primarily by the ruler.  Under 
the provisional constitution of 1971, each emirate reserves considerable 
powers, including control over mineral rights (notably oil) and 
revenues.  In this milieu, federal powers have developed slowly.  In 
October 1986, the provisional constitution was extended for another 5 
years and probably will be extended for another 5 years in December 
1991.

The constitution established the positions of president (chief of state) 
and vice president, each serving 5-year terms; a Council of Ministers 
(cabinet), led by a prime minister (head of government); a supreme 
council of rulers; and a 40-member National Assembly, a consultative 
body whose members are appointed by the emirate rulers.  President 
Shaikh Zayyed bin Sultan Al Nahyyan has been president of the UAE since 
it was founded.  His current 5-year term ends in December 1991, but it 
seems likely he will be elected to another 5-year term.

Principal Government Officials
Supreme Council
President, Ruler of Abu Dhabi--Shaikh Zayyed bin Sultan Al Nahayyan
Vice President and Prime Minister, Ruler of Dubai--Shaikh Maktoum bin 
Rashid Al Maktum
Ruler of Sharjah--Shaikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi
Ruler of Ajman--Shaikh Humaid bin Rashid al-Nuaimi
Ruler of Umm al-Qaiwain--Shaikh Rashid bin Ahmad al-Mualla
Ruler of Ras al-Khaimah-- Shaikh Saqr bin Muhammad al-Qasimi
Ruler of Fujairah-- Shaikh Hamad bin Muhammad al-Sharqi
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs--Hamdan bin Zayed al Nahyan
Ambassador to the United States--Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayyed bin Saqr al 
Nahyan
Ambassador to the United Nations--Mohammad bin Husayn al-Sha'ali

The UAE maintains an embassy in the United States at 600 New Hampshire 
Avenue NW, Suite 740, Washington, DC 20037 (tel. 202-338-6500).  The UAE 
Mission to the UN is located at 747 3d Avenue, 36th Floor, New York, NY 
10017 (tel. 212-371-0480).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The relative political and financial influence of each emirate is 
reflected in the allocation of positions in the federal government.  The 
ruler of Abu Dhabi, whose emirate is the UAE's major oil producer, is 
president of the UAE.  The ruler of Dubai, which is the UAE's commercial 
center and a significant oil producer, is vice president and prime 
minister.

Since achieving independence in 1971, the UAE has worked to strengthen 
its federal institutions.  Nonetheless, each emirate still retains 
substantial autonomy, and progress toward greater federal integration 
has slowed in recent years.  A basic concept in the UAE Government's 
development as a federal system is that a significant percentage of each 
emirate's revenues should be devoted to the UAE central budget.  

The UAE has no political parties.  There is talk of steps toward 
democratic government, but nothing concrete has emerged.  The rulers 
hold power on the basis of their dynastic position and their legitimacy 
in a system of tribal consensus.  Rapid modernization, enormous strides 
in education, and the influx of a large foreign population have changed 
the face of the society but have not fundamentally altered this 
traditional political system.

DEFENSE

The Trucial Oman Scouts, long the symbol of public order on the coast 
and commanded by British officers, were turned over to the UAE as its 
defense forces in 1971.  The UAE Armed Forces, consisting of 60,000 
troops, are headquartered in Abu Dhabi and are primarily responsible for 
the defense of six of the seven emirates.  Dubai's central military 
command (12,000 troops) has primary responsibility for Dubai's defense.

The UAE military relies heavily on troop force from other Arab countries 
and Pakistan.  The officer corps, however, is composed almost 
exclusively of UAE nationals.

The UAE air force has about 1,800 personnel.  Equipment includes French 
Mirage 3s and 5s and newly purchased Mirage 2000s, British Hawk 
aircraft, and French helicopters.  The newly revitalized air defense has 
a Hawk missile program for which the US is providing training.  The UAE 
has taken delivery of two of five Triad I-Hawk batteries.  The UAE navy 
is small--about 1,000 personnel--and maintains 12 well-equipped coastal 
patrol boats.

The UAE contributes a few hundred troops to the Gulf Cooperation 
Council's "Peninsula Shield" force, headquartered in Saudi Arabia.  
These forces participated in the recent Gulf war.

ECONOMY

Prior to the first exports of oil in 1962, the UAE economy was dominated 
by pearl production, fishing, agriculture, and herding.  Since the rise 
of oil prices in 1973, however, petroleum has dominated the economy, 
accounting for most of its export earnings and providing significant 
opportunities for investment.  The UAE has huge proven oil reserves, 
estimated at over 100 billion barrels in 1990, with gas reserves 
estimated at over 200 trillion cubic feet; at present production rates, 
these supplies would last well over 100 years.

In 1990, the UAE produced about 2 million barrels of oil per day--of 
which Abu Dhabi produced approximately 80%--with Dubai, and Sharjah to a 
much lesser extent, producing the rest.  The UAE's oil production rose 
significantly in the latter half of 1990 after the outbreak of the Gulf 
war.  The UAE is embarking on a major expansion of production capacity 
during the next 5 years.

In 1990, GDP increased substantially as a result of soaring oil 
revenues, but many companies in the non-oil sector were hit hard by a 
general slowdown in business during the period leading up to the Gulf 
war.  The oil sector remains the chief determinant of growth in the UAE 
economy by virtue of its major contribution to the GDP.  The preliminary 
estimate  of 1990 GDP is $34 billion, up 23% from 1989.

The US has sizable trade with the UAE.  In 1990, the US share of the 
UAE's imports was estimated at 8%.  About 4% of the UAE's exports, 
mainly oil, went to the US.  The UAE's major trade partners are Japan, 
the EEC, and the US.

The increase in the favorable overall balance of trade in 1990--from 
$5.4 billion in 1989 to $9.5 billion in 1990--was due to boosts in the 
value of oil and gas exports.  The country's imports rose by about 16% 
from $10 billion in 1989 to $12 billion in 1990, while exports were up 
by 36% from $15.5 billion in 1989 to $21 billion in 1990.  However, the 
UAE's balance of payments was actually negative for the first time, 
registering a 300 million loss.  This was due to the significant cash 
outflows from the UAE's military contributions to the liberation of 
Kuwait, aid to countries affected by the Gulf crisis, and huge capital 
transfers by individuals and companies during 1990 because of the 
crisis.  

Major increases in imports occurred in manufactured goods, machinery, 
and transportation equipment, which together accounted for 70% of total 
imports.  Another important foreign exchange earner, the Abu Dhabi 
investment authority--which controls the investments of Abu Dhabi, the 
wealthiest emirate--manages an estimated $60 billion in overseas 
investments.

The depreciation of the dollar caused a considerable increase in the 
cost of imports from Europe and Asia, especially in the latter half of 
1990.  There is now a trend toward reducing the country's huge 
expatriate population, which represents about 90% of the total UAE work 
force of 650,000.  From now on, imports of new labor will depend on the 
specific requirements of a new project.  

Over 200 factories operate at the Jebel Ali complex in Dubai, which 
includes a deep water port and a free-trade zone for manufacturing and 
distribution in which all goods for re-export or transshipment enjoy a 
100% duty exemption.  A major power plant with associated water 
desalination units, an aluminum smelter, and a steel fabrication unit 
are prominent facilities in the complex.

Except in the free trade zone, the UAE requires at least 51% local 
citizen ownership in all businesses operating in the  country as part of 
its attempt to place Emiris into leadership positions.

As a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the UAE participates 
in the wide range of GCC activities that focus on economic issues.  
These include regular consultations and development of common policies 
covering trade, investment, banking and finance, transportation, 
telecommunications, and other technical areas, including protection of 
intellectual property rights.  The post-Gulf war period should see 
increased efforts to accelerate economic integration by the UAE and 
other GCC countries.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

The UAE joined the United Nations and the Arab League and has 
established diplomatic relations with more than 60 countries, including 
the US, Japan, the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and 
most Western European countries.  It has played a moderate role in the 
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Organization of Arab 
Petroleum Exporting Countries, the United Nations, and the GCC.

Substantial development assistance has increased the UAE's stature among 
recipient states.  Most of this foreign aid (in excess of $15 billion) 
has been to Arab and Muslim countries.  

Following Iraq's 1990 invasion and attempted annexation of Kuwait, the 
UAE has sought to rely on the GCC, Syria, Egypt, the US, and other 
Western allies for its security.  The UAE believes that the Arab League 
needs to be restructured to become a viable institution.

US-UAE RELATIONS

The United States has enjoyed friendly relations with the UAE since 
1971.  Private commercial ties, especially in petroleum, have developed 
into friendly government-to-government ties which include security 
assistance.  The breadth, depth, and quality of US-UAE relations are 
increasing dramatically as a result of the US-led coalition's campaign 
to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.  The United States was the third 
country to establish formal diplomatic relations with the UAE and has 
had an ambassador resident in the UAE since 1974.

Principal US Officials
Ambassador--Edward S. Walker, Jr.
Deputy Chief of Mission--Brian J. Mohler
Political Officer--Juliana Seymour Peck
Economic Officer--William T. Fleming, Jr.
Consular Officer--Charles E. Robertson
Public Affairs Officer--Sami G. Hajjar
Commercial Officer--B. Paul Sogna

Mailing Address--PO Box 4009, Abu Dhabi; tel: 336691, USIS: 336567, 
Commercial Office: 345545; fax: 318441, Chancery: 213771, US Labor 
Office: 391604, Commercial Office: 331374.

Consul General in Dubai--Joseph Le Barron; PO Box 9343; tel: (04) 
371115; fax: 379043, Commercial Office:  375121). 

Travel Notes

Customs: A visa is required for entry.  Business or visitor visas can be 
arranged with only a few days' notice through local sponsors or major 
hotels.  Hotels levy a varying surcharge for this service.  No 
immunizations are required.  Health requirements change; check latest 
information.

Health: No unusual precautions in food and drink are necessary.  Water 
is potable.  For travel to some areas, malaria suppressant is advisable.  
Many Western-trained doctors practice in the
UAE.  

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