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United Arab Emirates suspends training of waterfront mercenaries

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64/97 14 December 1997


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The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today warmly welcomed the decision of the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to suspend the training of former and serving Australian Defence Force Personnel as a non-union labour force for the Australian waterfront.

"This is a very encouraging step toward removing an issue with potentially unfortunate consequences for the otherwise positive and growing bilateral relationship between Australia and the United Arab Emirates", Mr Brereton said.

"With their training program suspended, the industrial mercenaries will clearly have very little to do in Dubai. They should be returned to Australia without delay."

"This episode reflects no credit whatsoever on Prime Minister Howard and his colleagues. Hell-bent in pursuit of its own domestic political objectives on the waterfront, the Howard Government has disgracefully allowed the Government of the UAE to become embroiled in what is an internal Australian issue. Rather than being nurtured and enhanced, a significant bilateral relationship has been used and abused by the Howard Government."

Mr Brereton confirmed that he had maintained a close dialogue on the issue with the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, His Excellency Mr Khali fa Bakhit Al-Falasi.

"In the course of our discussions, I have continually emphasised the importance of bipartisan support in Australia for the further development of mutually beneficial ties between our countries. I made clear the Labor Party's deep concern at the prospect of industrial mercenaries being trained in Dubai with the assistance of an instrumentality of the Government of the UAE to precipitate confrontation on the Australian waterfront."

"I explained that the UAE Government's association with this operation could easily be construed as an inappropriate involvement in Australia's internal affairs with potentially adverse consequences both for public perceptions of the UAE and the bilateral relationship."

"There can be no doubt about the Ambassador's commitment to expand and deepen the relationship between Australia and the UAE and I am confident that he has played a major role in ensuring that his Government is aware of all the potential implications of this issue and its significance in the bilateral relationship."

Contact: Philip Dorling (02) 6277 4717 or 0418 203 058


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