* Relations between UAE and Qatar tense over Islamists
* Newspaper says Qataris questioned on activities in UAE
* UAE withdrew ambassador from Doha earlier this year
DUBAI, July 9 The United Arab Emirates is
holding suspected Qatari intelligence agents for questioning on
their activities in the UAE, an Emirati newspaper said on
Wednesday, in a case that could further damage ties between the
two Gulf Arab allies.
Relations between the UAE and Qatar have deteriorated
sharply in recent months over Doha's support for Islamists, who
are seen by the rest of the U.S.-allied Gulf Arab oil exporters
as a threat to their stability.
A Qatari newspaper reported earlier this week that UAE
authorities had detained and subjected to torture three Qatari
citizens who were on holiday in the Gulf Arab state.
On its front page the Arabic-language al-Khaleej newspaper
dismissed the assertion that those arrested were tourists,
quoting unnamed sources as saying that authorities were holding
"Qatari intelligence elements operating on UAE soil".
"They are currently undergoing questioning," the privately
owned newspaper, one of the oldest in the UAE, said, without
giving further details.
Qatari officials declined to comment on the report. UAE
officials made no immediate comment.
In March, in the biggest public display to date of the rift
between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and
Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from the country, accusing
Doha of failing to abide by an accord not to interfere in each
others' internal affairs.
Analysts said the dispute was over Qatar's support for the
Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose ideology
challenges the principle of conservative dynastic rule long
dominant in the Gulf.
Qatar made no direct comment on the earlier report that its
citizens had been detained, but in an apparent allusion to the
case, the Foreign Ministry said on its Twitter account earlier
this week that the state "did not abandon its sons and was
taking all measures through legal and diplomatic channels."
"What happened is just a reflection of the very tense
relationship between Qatar and the UAE, and (one should) expect
more things like this to happen in the near future," an Arab
diplomat in Doha told Reuters.
"But what Qatar is trying to do now is contain the situation
and resolve these problems quietly because it can't afford the
fuss and more negative repercussions."
EFFORTS TO HEAL RIFT
To the dismay of its Gulf Arab neighbours, Qatar supported
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-led government elected after the
ousting of long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Doha
provided financial and political assistance until the Islamist
President Mohamed Mursi was ousted in an army coup last July.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE also particularly resent Doha's
sheltering of prominent Islamist preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi, a
critic of the two states' rulers, and his regular air time on
Qatar's pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera and on Qatari
In March, the UAE sentenced a Qatari physician to seven
years in jail after he was convicted of supporting Islah, an
Islamist group banned by authorities.
Since their public spat in March, the four Gulf Arab states
have agreed on steps to try to heal the rift, but so far neither
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain nor the UAE have returned their
ambassadors to Doha.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi and Amena Bakr; Editing by Raissa