Oman says uncovers UAE spy network

MUSCAT (Reuters) - Oman said it had uncovered a UAE spy network in the Gulf Arab state that targeted its government and military, the state news agency of the U.S. ally in the Arabian Peninsula reported on Sunday.

“Security services uncovered a spying network belonging to the state security apparatus of the United Arab Emirates, targeting the ruling regime in Oman and the way its government and military work,” the agency said, quoting a security source.

The news agency gave few details. An Omani government source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said a number of Omani nationals had been arrested, including some who worked for the government.

There was no immediate comment from officials in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, a regional financial and tourism hub that has typically had friendly relations with Oman.

The Omani official said the arrests dated back about two months, but gave no other details. Oman’s news agency said the suspects would be sent to court.

Theodore Karasik, director of research and development and research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the arrests were puzzling.

“This is all very murky,” he said. “One possibility is that the UAE wants to know more about Iran-Oman relations because of Tehran and Muscat’s long ties in security and military cooperation.”

Oman maintains good relations with Iran and was instrumental in helping to negotiate the release of one of three U.S. hikers accused by Tehran of straying from Iraq into Iranian territory.

Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the international dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The sultanate has strong military and diplomatic ties with the West, and U.S. and British forces have been stationed in Oman for years.

Reporting by Saleh al Shaibany and Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Matthew Jones