2003: Newsmakers - War could affect Qatar, Dubai events

The chances of the Qatar Masters being held were dealt a severe blow after the British Foreign Office advised British citizens not to travel to the Middle Eastern country unless it was absolutely necessary. The Qatar Masters is scheduled for March 13-16.

The Foreign Office has not issued the same travel warning for the United Arab Emirates, which will play host to the Dubai Desert Classic March 6-9.

Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, the world’s top two players, are scheduled to compete at Dubai. Els is the defending champion.

The PGA European Tour has adopted a business-as-usual position on the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic, maintaining that both tournaments will be held. That stance, however, most likely will be reviewed following the Foreign Office’s advice.

“The events are going forward, and they are both 150-man fields,” said Gordon Simpson, director of communications for the PGA European Tour.

Officials from the Qatar and Dubai events had not returned calls by press time Feb. 24.

The British government has warned citizens to stay clear of Qatar because of the increased threat of terrorism in the buildup to possible military action in Iraq.

“We advise you not to make any nonessential travel including holiday travel to Qatar, and if already in Qatar, to maintain a high level of vigilance and to consider whether your presence and that of your dependents is essential,” the Foreign Office said in a statement on its Web site.

“We are giving this advice because of the increasing regional tension and of the risk of terrorist action.

“We believe that Qatar continues to be one of a number of countries where there is an increased threat to British institutions and organizations from global terrorism.”

The U.S. Army has established a major headquarters in Qatar, in preparation for possible military action in Iraq. The command body in charge of the U.S. military in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa is in place at the as-Syliyah base in Qatar.

Approximately 1,000 military personnel, including U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, took part in exercises in Qatar in December 2002. Some 3,500 U.S. personnel also are based at the al-Udeid air base.

The Foreign Office lists the UAE among Gulf States with an increased threat from global terrorism.

“We believe that the UAE, in common with all the Gulf region and many other countries, is a place where there is an increased threat to British institutions and organizations from global terrorism,” the Foreign Office warned. “Given the heightened tension in the Middle East region and the increased threat from global terrorism, you should be vigilant, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, and exercise good security practice.”

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