February 18, 2009 / 8:38 PM / in 9 years

UAE will let Israeli man play tennis: U.S. Congressman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A male Israeli tennis player will get a visa to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships, a U.S. congressman said on Wednesday, adding that as a result he will not ask the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) to cancel the event.

In the wake of the Gulf state’s denial of a visa for a female Israeli tennis player, Representative Anthony Weiner of New York had scheduled a news conference on Wednesday to press the ATP to withdraw its backing for the tournament, a spokesman for the Brooklyn congressman said.

But Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Washington, has now assured Weiner that the male doubles player, Andy Ram, will be allowed to play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, which starts Monday.

The female player, Shahar Peer, has already missed her event, for the women’s open portion began earlier this week.

“Ms. Shahar Peer is a victim of politics over sportsmanship,” Weiner said in a statement.

The event is one of the Women’s Tennis Association Tour’s most prestigious events and attracted additional international attention this year because of the UAE’s decision to bar Peer from entering.

That prompted The Wall Street Journal’s European edition to withdraw its sponsorship on Tuesday. The Journal’s parent company, Dow Jones & Co, is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s international media conglomerate News Corp.

The UAE, like most Arab countries, has no diplomatic ties with Israel and routinely denies entry to Israelis.

The tournament’s organizers supported the decision to deny Peer a visa, saying local tennis fans would have boycotted the championships if she had been allowed to compete. Peer’s presence would have antagonized fans who had watched recent television coverage of Israeli attacks on Gaza, tournament director Salah Tahlak said.

The three-week Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip killed 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis. The attack, which ended in January, sparked outrage in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Israel said it acted in defense of rocket attacks from the Gaza strip.

Reporting by Joan Gralla, editing by Philip Barbara

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