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UAE goes back on planned BlackBerry services ban

The United Arab Emirates said on Friday that a ban on BlackBerry services that had been due to come into effect next week will not go ahead.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority confirmed that Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE's telecommunications regulatory framework in a statement carried by the official WAM news agency.

"BlackBerry services will carry on as usual and will not be suspended on October 11," the statement said.

In late August, the UAE said that, from October 11, it would block BlackBerry messenger, web browsing and email services because they "allow individuals to commit violations" that cannot be monitored.

But the TRA statement acknowledged "the positive engagement and collaboration of Research In Motion (RIM) in reaching this regulatorily compliant outcome."

A TRA official had said earlier this week that the decision to suspend the services was "final."

However, "we remain open to discussions in order that an acceptable, regulatorily compliant solution might be developed and applied," the official told AFP at the time.

Since the TRA announced it was planning the ban, the market for BlackBerry handsets has languished in the oil-rich Gulf state, where there are some 500,000 savvy users.

BlackBerry sales have fallen by around 40 percent, said a supervisor in an electronics shop, Kishore Kumar.

"Those still buying the device are basically tourists," he added.

BlackBerry has faced similar snags in Saudi Arabia and India, where the authorities fear heavy encryption makes BlackBerry convenient for terrorists to use without being detected.

The Saudi telecommunications authority announced in early August that it had ordered the country's three providers to block key BlackBerry services or face a 1.3-million-dollar fine as of August 6.

At the time, the regulator had said "the way BlackBerry services are provided currently does not meet the regulatory criteria of the commission and the licensing conditions."

But only days later, it indefinitely postponed the ban after reporting progress in efforts to find a solution that would allow authorities to monitor encrypted messages on the popular smartphone.

Subscribers number around 700,000 in Saudi Arabia, where Internet service is strictly censored.

BlackBerry's encrypted emails and data are stored on servers in Canada, the headquarters of RIM, meaning that third parties such as intelligence agencies cannot monitor communications.

Outside the Arab world, the firm is making progress in talks with India over New Delhi's demands to be able to intercept encrypted messages carried by the smartphone, according to latest reports.

New Delhi had initially threatened to ban BlackBerry's corporate email service if the firm failed to come up with ways to monitor it by the end of August. Now it has said it will review the situation near the end of October.

India has said RIM will have to set up a server if it wishes to continue in the country and said it will study the feasibility of services provided through such a server located in India.