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Threatened ban on BlackBerrys lifted

The United Arab Emirates yesterday backed off from a threat to cut key BlackBerry services, just days before a planned ban that could have harmed the country's business-friendly reputation.

The decision ended more than two months of brinkmanship with the Canadian company that makes the smart phones, a tool popular with businesspeople as well as gadget-loving consumers.

The ban on email, text messaging and web services – which the government threatened to impose over security concerns – was due to take effect on Monday. Half a million local users and thousands of business travellers would have been affected. Dubai's airport, the region's busiest, handles about 100,000 passengers daily.

"It's going to come as quite a relief," said Matthew Reed, a BlackBerry user and analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, who is based in Dubai. "It was not at all clear what would happen until right up to the end."

While a number of countries, including India and Saudi Arabia, have threatened BlackBerry crackdowns, the UAE's proposed ban drew widespread attention because it is a major trade hub. The Emirates telecommunications regulator confirmed that a deal had been reached with the manufacturer that brought the devices into compliance with local laws.