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October 7, 2009

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Home » Sports » Sailing

Emirate allays fears over threat to security

ORGANIZERS of the next edition of the America's Cup, due to be staged in Ras al-Khaimah in February, said yesterday they would meet the BMW Oracle team next week to assure them there was no security threat.

Khater Massaad, chief executive of the Ras al-Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), said officials from the emirate would meet the California-based team to try and allay any concerns.

Oracle, backed by software executive Larry Ellison, said in court papers filed in New York on Friday the 2010 race should be moved to Valencia in Spain, citing a US State Department advisory warning Americans to "exercise a high level of security awareness" due to possible attacks from al Qaeda and other groups.

The disagreement is the latest twist in a two-year legal battle over the terms of yachting's most prestigious race.

"We were surprised and shocked. We have written to Larry Ellison that RAK is part of the UAE and the place is safe," said Massaad, noting Oracle's Middle East headquarters were based in nearby the UAE emirate of Dubai.

"The UAE has 10 million tourists a year and millions of Americans and other foreigners live here. There is absolute safety," he said.

Less developed

One of seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, Ras al-Khaimah is the closest of the emirates to Iran, separated by about 80 miles across the Gulf. It is less developed than the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and tourism hub Dubai.

Massaad dismissed suggestions its proximity to Iran was an issue.

"We have no special relationship with Iran," he said.

BMW Oracle said on October 3: "As a venue for the America's Cup, Ras al-Khaimah ... presents grave safety concerns for the team members of an American challenger, named 'USA,' that flies an American flag on a 300 foot (91 meter) mast."

Defending champion Alinghi, which chose the venue and is backed by billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, dismissed Oracle's claim as a ploy to move the race to a venue preferred by Oracle's backer Ellison.

Massaad said the race's infrastructure was now in place and the organizers were waiting for the last pontoon designed by Oracle to arrive in the next two weeks.


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