The Latest: Watchdog urges pope to press UAE on human rights

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

Human Rights Watch is urging Pope Francis to use his visit to the United Arab Emirates to press its rulers about serious human rights violations in the war in Yemen and their repression of critics at home.

The rights group released a letter on Monday at the start of the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

HRW says the Saudi-led coalition backed by the UAE has bombed Yemeni homes, markets and schools indiscriminately while impeding humanitarian aid from reaching desperate Yemenis.

The New York-based watchdog also says that the UAE authorities have targeted critics, political dissidents and human rights activists with arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.

HRW called in the letter on the pope to lead international pressure to hold the UAE leadership accountable. It says that “despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record.”

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1:55 p.m.

Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince says he and Dubai’s ruler were “delighted” to meet Pope Francis for a meeting amid the pontiff’s trip to the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan tweeted pictures of the meeting on Monday in what he described as “our homeland of tolerance.”

Sheikh Mohammed tweeted: “We discussed enhancing cooperation, consolidating dialogue, tolerance, human coexistence & important initiatives to achieve peace, stability and development for peoples and societies.”

He did not elaborate.

Pope Francis arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. His visit represents the first papal trip ever to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

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1:10 p.m.

Pope Francis has assured the people of the United Arab Emirates of his prayers and “the divine blessings of peace and fraternal solidarity.”

Francis signed a book of honor on Monday at the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi, where he met for private talks with the Emirati capital’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

Frances wrote in his characteristic tiny script, in English, of his “gratitude for your warm welcome and hospitality.”

The Emirates put on a remarkably grandiose welcome for Francis, complete with an artillery salute and military flyover by a country that is now at war in Yemen, where the UAE backs a Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

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12:10 p.m.

Pope Francis has arrived at the presidential palace to officially start his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates as canons boomed and a military aircraft flew over trailing the yellow and white smoke of the Holy See flag.

Guards on horseback escorted Francis’ tiny Kia car to approach the palace where a marching band, complete with bagpipers, was on hand on Monday for a red-carpet welcome at the massive, domed structure in Abu Dhabi.

The capital’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was to welcome Francis, the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

The highlight of Francis’ day comes on Monday afternoon when he is to meet privately with a group of Muslim elders and then addresses faith leaders in a show of religious tolerance in a Muslim region known for its restrictions on religious freedom.

His 40-hour trip to Abu Dhabi culminates on Tuesday with the first-ever papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula — a gathering expected to draw some 135,000 people in a never-before-seen display of public Christian worship here.

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9:55 a.m.

Pope Francis is opening his historic visit to the United Arab Emirates by meeting with the federation’s leader and a group of Muslim elders.

After that, he will address an unprecedented gathering of faith leaders in a show of religious tolerance in a Muslim region known for its restrictions on religious freedom.

Francis’ speech to the gathering on Monday evening is the highlight of his brief, 40-hour visit to Abu Dhabi.

His trip culminates on Tuesday with the first-ever papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula. It’s expected to draw some 135,000 people in a never-before-seen display of public Christian worship here.

Francis arrived in the Emirati capital late Sunday and was greeted by Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Categories: International News