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U.A.E. Is Making Progress in Talks With RIM on BlackBerry, Al Otaiba Says

The United Arab Emirates is making “good progress” in talks with Research In Motion Ltd. to solve a dispute over the government’s ability to monitor BlackBerry handset communications, the ambassador to the U.S. said today.

The Persian Gulf state, home to Middle East business hub Dubai, plans to suspend some BlackBerry services from October unless it gains access to the communications. India and Saudi Arabia this month reached agreements with RIM on data access.

“Talks are going on and doing quite well,” Yousef Al Otaiba, the U.A.E. ambassador to the U.S., told reporters in the capital Abu Dhabi. “Hopefully we will reach a conclusion in the near future.”

BlackBerry Messenger, e-mail and Web browsing services will be halted in the U.A.E. from Oct. 11, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said in a statement Aug. 1. The regulator claims BlackBerry messages, which are transferred to computer servers outside the country, can’t be monitored as stipulated under national security laws.

“It’s a compliance issue with regulatory demands,” Al Otaiba said. “It’s very straightforward. It’s not anything regarding censorship, it’s not regarding anything besides what the TRA has requested: compliance with regulatory standards.”

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, will give India access to its BlackBerry messenger service beginning Sept. 1 to address security concerns, two government officials said in New Delhi yesterday. RIM will provide an automated solution for tracking BlackBerry smartphone messages by November, said the officials who declined to be named because the discussions are private.

Saudi Arabia

The company avoided a ban on BlackBerry services in Saudi Arabia this month after agreeing to work with the three wireless service providers there to make instant messages available for monitoring, that nation’s regulator said. It didn’t reveal details of the agreement.

“The Saudis, the Indians, everyone requested different kinds of compliance and they have different regulations,” Al Otaiba said. “What they are getting isn’t necessarily what we will be ultimately getting.”

The U.A.E. regulator informed local phone companies Emirates Telecommunications Corp., known as Etisalat, and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co., known as Du, of the planned suspension of BlackBerry services and instructed them to shift clients to other services. Both operators have introduced new phone service packages that will allow customers to replace their BlackBerry and have access to similar services.

Wall Street Customers

Du, which has about 100,000 BlackBerry customers, isn’t in direct talks with RIM about the suspension of services in the U.A.E., Chief Executive Officer Osman Sultan said by telephone today. He declined to comment on negotiations being held by the regulator. Officials at the TRA couldn’t immediately be reached.

Etisalat is “committed” to following the U.A.E. decision to suspend BlackBerry services unless a suitable regulatory agreement can be reached, Ahmed bin Ali, senior vice president for corporate communications, said by phone today.

RIM is seeking to reassure Wall Street customers about the security of its BlackBerry e-mail service as countries including Saudi Arabia and India press for more access to its network, two people familiar with the situation said last week.

RIM has held at least one conference call in the past week with clients including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to discuss BlackBerry operations, said the people who didn’t want to be named because the talks were private.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zahraa Alkhalisi in Abu Dhabi at zalkhalisi@bloomberg.net; Anthony DiPaola in Dubai at adipaola@bloomberg.net.

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