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BlackBerry Restrictions In U.A.E. To Affect Foreign Visitors


An undated company handout shows a BlackBerry model released in early 2008.
The United Arab Emirates' (U.A.E.) Telecommunications Regulatory Authority today said its decision to restrict key BlackBerry services will extend to the roaming networks used by foreign visitors.

The regulatory agency announced on August 1 that BlackBerry messenger, e-mail, and electronic browsing services will be suspended starting October 11 because the government, which censors Internet use in the conservative country, is unable to monitor the services.

The move will affect the hundreds of thousands of travelers who pass through Dubai, one of the world's busiest hubs of international business.

The regulatory agency last week warned that BlackBerry services could be used "inappropriately" after local users' data was allegedly stored abroad by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion.

Also on August 1, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders charged the U.A.E. with "harassing and arresting users of BlackBerry Messenger who allegedly tried to organize a protest" against a hike in gas prices.

The organization also raised concern over the case of Badr Ali al-Dhohori, 18, a BlackBerry user reportedly in custody since July 15.

There are an estimated 500,000 BlackBerry users in the U.A.E.

Meanwhile, some Western news agencies cited a telecommunications official in Saudi Arabia as saying similar restrictions would be implemented there as well.

AP and AFP both quoted Saudi officials speaking under condition of anonymity as saying the Saudi Arabia Communications and Information Technology Commission will soon issue a statement on the restrictions.

compiled from agency reports