Bush Regaled In United Arab Emirates

President George W. Bush, center, watches dancers perform during a visit to the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House, Monday, Jan. 14, 2008 in Dubai, United Arabs Emirates. Sitting next to Bush on the right is United Arab Emirates Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

As President Bush has been making the rounds of the Sunni Arab states, asking support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and for tougher financial sanctions on Iran, he has been working to try to repair the image of the U.S. in this part of the world.

He told a group of business entrepreneurs in Dubai that he wanted them to understand something about America: "We respect you, we respect your religion and we want to work together for the sake of freedom and peace."

But his overriding concern on this trip is Iran. In his only major speech, the president called Iran "the world's leading sponsor of terrorism," and urged the Arab nations to confront the danger before it is too late.

"Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere," he said.

Mr. Bush is asking the Saudis and others for tougher financial sanctions on Iran. That's a sacrifice for other Gulf States which do substantial business with the Iranians. But there is a quid pro quo - the promise of continued U.S. protections, and more sales of U.S. weapons.

It's no coincidence that today is the same day that the administration is going to tell Congress that it wants to sell the Saudis a very sophisticated weapon, the JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition), a device which provides satellite precision-guidance for bombs.

Even though some of Iran's neighbors are concerned, they're reluctant to be too confrontational.

Meetings on this trip have also gingerly sidestepped another subject close to home for many Americans: oil prices.

A senior administration official confirmed to CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante that the subject of $100-a-barrel oil, a prospect with serious repercussions for U.S. consumers and the economy as a whole, had not come up in any meetings he attended.

He added, "It's a sensitive subject."

Bush Basks In Emirates Hospitality

On Monday President Bush got a flavor of the cosmopolitan banking and business hub of Dubai, whose glass skyscrapers and booming construction have turned it into the capital of Middle East bustle.

The soaring Persian Gulf city-state is Mr. Bush's second stop in the seven-state United Arab Emirates federation, following his gentle lecture on democracy in Abu Dhabi and an opulent picnic at a desert horse camp Sunday. The Dubai visit is part of a trip aimed at invigorating Mideast peace talks and keeping pressure on Iran.

Even before Mr. Bush touched down in Dubai, he had an impact. The government declared Monday a national holiday and shut down many main roads and bridges.

On a day of cultural diplomacy, Mr. Bush began with a stop at the historic home of the former ruler of Dubai, now a museum loaded with photos and artifacts of the emirate's history.

The president grinned and tapped his foot as a group of girls stepped rhythmically to Arabic music, their long hair swinging from shoulder to shoulder. The light rain that fell during Mr. Bush's arrival did not dampen the mood, as rain is considered here to be good luck during the visit of a foreign leader.

Mr. Bush then had lunch with students of the Dubai School of Government, a research and teaching institution that focuses on public policy in the Arab world. The president and his hosts sat on cushions, set in a circle, their food in bowls on the carpeted floor before them.

"I'm most impressed with what I've seen here. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong, and equally importantly, the desire to make sure all aspects of society have hope and encouragement," Mr. Bush later told a gathering of entrepreneurs and others affiliated with a young leaders' group.

The session was held in a conference room high atop one of Dubai's signature buildings, a luxury hotel shaped like a tall ship sail. The Burj Al Arab occupies its own manmade island.

Mr. Bush was departing the Gulf region later in the day for meetings in Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. security ally and often the region's decision leader.

Dubai, concerned about being a target for Islamic extremist terrorism that has hit other nations in the oil-rich region, has installed one of the world's most comprehensive homeland security and anti-terrorism systems. Many anti-terror analysts believe the threat in Dubai is growing - fueled by the city's image as a bastion of Western-style capitalism and nightlife, its new status as home to the world's tallest building and the frequent port calls by U.S. Navy ships.

Dubai has a flashy reputation; alcohol flows freely in its many hotel bars, and bikini-clad Western tourists soak up the sun on its beaches.

There are still some wounded feelings here from a Dubai state-owned company's attempt in 2006 to buy operations at six U.S. ports, a Bush-supported move that put him at odds with a Congress that was run by his own party at the time. The Dubai ports deal was ultimately blocked after loud protests by lawmakers. Partly in response to the controversy, Congress passed legislation beefing up the government's process for reviewing the security implications of foreign investments.

Dubai has a powerful Iranian business community, and the West, led by the United States, is cracking down on business in and out of Iran to protest against its nuclear ambitions. Dubai is caught in the middle - eager to maintain its lucrative business with Iran, but wary of angering the United States and the United Nations.

Mr. Bush used a speech Sunday to gently nudge authoritarian Arab allies to satisfy frustrated desires for democracy in the Mideast, but he saved his harshest criticism for Iran, branding it "the world's leading state-sponsor of terror."

Speaking in the Persian Gulf country of the UAE, about 150 miles from the shores of Iran, Mr. Bush said Tehran threatens nations everywhere and that the United States was "rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late."

The warning about Iran was much tougher than Mr. Bush's admonition about spreading democracy in the Middle East, which had been billed as the central theme of his speech.

Before flying to Dubai, Mr. Bush began his activities Monday by viewing a cultural exhibit and visiting business leaders in Abu Dhabi. At an exhibit on energy economy in the Gulf, Mr. Bush praised the United Arab Emirates federation for examining how to move beyond a reliance on oil.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Mr. Bush said. "This country has gotten its wealth from the ground and is now reinvesting in alternative forms of energy."
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