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US officials react to a 2004 videotape showing a man being tortured by the son of a former UAE president, as the countries discuss a key nuclear deal.
It promised to carry out “a comprehensive review of the matter immediately and make its findings public at the earliest opportunity.”
The office’s statement added that although the UAE’s Interior Ministry statement had said that the assault “was resolved between the two parties and that no criminal charges were brought,” there appears to be “a violation of human rights” that needs examination.
Human Rights Watch called Abu Dhabi’s promise of a new and thorough review of the incident “a positive first step.”
The U.S. government regards the UAE as a close ally. In January, the two governments signed a nuclear deal, similar to ones with Egypt, Morocco and India, under which the United States will transfer nuclear technology and material to the UAE for its projected power plants. In return, the UAE agrees to abide by international non-proliferation rules and safeguards.
But the torture videotape has prompted U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) to urge a halt to implementation of the agreement until the UAE government responds to human rights concerns sparked by the videotaped abuse.
McGovern made the request in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing “horror and revulsion” at the tape, according to a report on CNN’s website. McGovern asked for “a temporary hold on further U.S. expenditures of funds, training, sales or transfers of equipment or technology, including nuclear, until a full review of this matter and its policy implications can be completed,” the report said.
At Friday's daily State Department press briefing in Washington, department spokesman Robert Wood was asked directly about the video and whether it impacted the UAE nuclear deal (or the "123" deal, as it's called).
QUESTION: I know you touched on this yesterday, but is there anything moving on the UAE 123 deal? The — is that their — well, you know about the disturbing video. Is that holding it up?
WOOD: Sue, as I said yesterday, we are reviewing this agreement. As you know, it’s a holdover from the previous administration. That review, as I mentioned to you, is ongoing. But I don’t have anything further to offer you at this point.
QUESTION: Are you talking to members of Congress about the videotape and how that might impact whether they’re going to support the deal?
WOOD: Well, they’re two separate issues, as I’ve said.
QUESTION: Well, some people are looking at them as one issue, actually.
WOOD: Well, we do talk to Congress about a number of issues. We certainly have had conversations about this agreement with representatives on the Hill. But again, we’re still reviewing it. So you know, I can’t really go into very much detail in terms of, you know, where we go with this agreement at this point. We still need to review it and then we’ll go from there.
Experts in the region said they do not anticipate a major fall-out on bilateral relations because of the tape.