UAE ad seeks to hone image

USA Today insert silent on port deal

February 24, 2006|By ROB HIAASEN | ROB HIAASEN,SUN REPORTER

The timing just seemed a bit off - or on.

In a news cycle dominated by the U.S. ports security story, an advertising insert in yesterday's USA Today featured positive political and economic stories about the United Arab Emirates, a country very much in the news.

The Bush administration is trying to calm a furor over allowing a Middle Eastern company, Dubai Ports World, to take over partial control of six U.S. ports, including Baltimore.

Critics of the deal say the Persian Gulf country has been linked to al-Qaida.

"Unfortunately the tie of 9/11 with Islam and the Arab world set our relationship back," an economic minister was quoted in a story called "Reinforcing the relationship between the UAE and the U.S" in a supplement called "Our World." The newspaper insert, one in a series produced by an international media publishing company, United World, appeared in yesterday's USA Today.

"Bringing out the best in partnerships" was another headline. There's obviously a real estate boom in this oil-rich country. Developers in Dubai - part of the UAE - are building "300 man-made islands in the shape of a giant world map." Reportedly, golfer Greg Norman is designing a course outside of Dubai. There were no stories on the Dubai ports deal.

According to its Web site, "United World has been a recognized leader in the production of special reports that deliver timely, credible information to a sophisticated American audience." Since 1991, United World's "special reports" have appeared occasionally in the nation's largest newspaper. An "Our World" insert on Turkey, for example, appeared in a November edition of USA Today.

"They have run for years in our paper," says Steve Anderson, director of communications for USA Today. "It's clearly a paid advertisement. I never have received a call confusing this with our newspaper content." The ads usually run one day.

As for the timing, newspaper inserts are typically designed and planned well in advance of publication, Anderson says.

Officials at New York-based United World were unavailable for comment yesterday.

robert.hiaasen@baltsun.com

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