UAE minister says Donald Trump's travel ban not anti-Islam

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (right) speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Feb 1, 2017.
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (right) speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Feb 1, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

ABU DHABI (AFP) - US President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations is not anti-Islam, the United Arab Emirates foreign minister said on Wednesday (Feb 1).

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, whose country like neighbouring Saudi Arabia is a close ally of Washington, said it was "wrong to say" that the decision by the new US administration was "directed against a particular religion".

"The United States has made... a sovereign decision," he said at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, pointing out that it was "provisional" and did not apply to "the large majority" of the world's Muslims.

President Donald Trump's controversial executive order on Friday singled out citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to prevent "radical Islamic terrorists" from entering the United States.

But the 90-day ban, which could still extend to other states, has exempted Muslim-majority nations associated with major attacks in the West.

Out of the 19 hijackers of planes used in the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, 15 came from Saudi Arabia, also the birthplace of Al-Qaeda founder and attack mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The other four included the Egyptian plot leader, two Emiratis and a Lebanese.