Debt-laden Dubai offers to host U.N. headquarters

Flags fly in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York July 31, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai said on Friday it has offered to host the headquarters of the United Nations should the global organization want to leave New York, a sign the Gulf emirate’s ambitions remain high despite its debt problems. “The government of Dubai announces that it is fully prepared to host the U.N. headquarters on its territory in the event its officials take the decision to move from New York,” the Dubai government said a statement.

Dubai’s offer comes days after an article by an academic and a real estate developer on the website of Forbes magazine called for the United Nations to relocate to Dubai.

“Bringing the United Nations to Dubai makes sense,” wrote Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, and Robert J. Cristiano, the California university’s “real estate professional in residence.”

“New York gets rid of one of its worst welfare cheats, and Dubai finds new tenants to fill its vacant towers,” they said, describing the U.N. headquarters as a “pain in the butt” which “pays no taxes and annoys hard-working New Yorkers with its sloth, pretensions and cavalier disregard for traffic laws.”

Dubai, which has gained worldwide attention for its extravagant real estate projects, left global markets reeling in November when it said it would request a standstill agreement on billions of dollars of debt.

The global financial crisis saw many real estate projects delayed or shelved in the emirate, but construction has barely stopped and new projects are still coming on line, raising questions on how the buildings will be filled in the downturn.

Earlier this month, Dubai’s ruler inaugurated the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

“Dubai has already built something that looks the part of a 21st-century world capital,” Kotkin and Cristiano wrote.

“Let it get a cast appropriate for its glittering set.”

Reporting by Raissa Kasolowsky; editing by Robin Pomeroy