U.S. and Israel spying behind BlackBerry woe: Dubai police

DUBAI Fri Sep 3, 2010 10:30am EDT

A family walks past a display of a BlackBerry smart phone at a shopping mall in Dubai August 1, 2010. REUTERS/Mosab Omar

A family walks past a display of a BlackBerry smart phone at a shopping mall in Dubai August 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mosab Omar

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Concerns over Israeli access to BlackBerry data, and the use of the device by the United States to spy on the United Arab Emirates are behind the Gulf state's moves to curb the smartphone, Dubai's police chief said.

"The Unites States is the primary beneficiary of having no controls over the BlackBerry, as it has an interest to spy on the UAE," Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said in remarks carried by the website of the daily al-Khaleej on Friday.

"The West has accused us of curbing the liberties of BlackBerry users, while America, Israel, Britain and other countries are allowed access to all transferred data," Tamim added.

Tamim, who has been outspoken in blaming Israeli agents for the assassination of a top Palestinian militant at a Dubai hotel in January, did not say why Washington had an interest in spying on Western-allied UAE.

The UAE, where BlackBerry maker RIM has 500,000 users, has said it would suspend BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October11 until the government could get access to encrypted messages.

Blackberry won a reprieve on a shutdown in India last month, after RIM agreed to give India access to secure BlackBerry data, according to an Indian government source.

BlackBerry's Messenger application has spread rapidly in the Gulf where it is a popular business and social networking tool. But because the data is encrypted and sent to offshore servers, it cannot be tracked locally.

That has raised fears in security-conscious Gulf states, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, that a lack of access could fetter their ability to ferret out potential spies, assassins or Islamic militants, analysts say.

(Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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