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QE2's new home looms

THE cash-strapped Dubai owner of the Queen Elizabeth 2 is weighing plans to open the British ocean liner as a floating hotel elsewhere in the Middle East or Africa rather than in the struggling Persian Gulf sheikdom.

In an e-mail yesterday, ship owner Nakheel told The Associated Press that other ports have expressed interest in hosting the vessel and that it is evaluating those options before going ahead with a planned refurbishment.

The property developer had originally planned to renovate the ship and turn it into a luxury hotel berthed alongside the company's man-made, tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah island off the Dubai coast. It has been moored at Dubai's downtown Port Rashid since its highly publicized arrival in November.

"In addition to alternative locations in Dubai, other ports in the Middle East and Africa have also expressed an interest in hosting this impressive maritime icon," the firm said.

Nakheel did not name possible ports for the ship. It said it is seeking "to ensure opportunities to experience QE2 in her current condition are maximized whilst ensuring her important heritage is at all times protected."

South Africa's Business Day newspaper, citing a spokeswoman for the company's tourism department, reported that Nakheel has applied to anchor the ship in Cape Town. The spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Nakheel is struggling financially as a result of the global financial crisis and a steep drop in the city-state's property market. It is one of two leading real estate developers in the United Arab Emirates.


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