MUSCAT (AFP) – Oman has dismantled an Emirati spy ring that was targeting the government and the military in the Gulf sultanate, a security official said on Sunday.
“Security forces (of Oman) were able to discover a spy ring belonging to the state security forces of the United Arab Emirates targeting the regime in Oman and the mechanism of governmental and military work there,” said the official, quoted by the official ONA news agency.
The cell was uncovered five months ago, before it was watched and dismantled by Omani security services, an official close to the case told AFP.
The cell “gathered information on the Sultanate’s military, security and economy, in return for large sums of money from Emirati security services,” the same official added requesting anonymity.
The cell “was interested in the issue of the succession of Sultan Qaboos, in the absence of an heir to the throne,” a security official said.
Succession could pose a problem in Oman, as the 70-year-old sultan, who overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1970, does not have children.
Qaboos was briefly married in 1976 to his cousin Kamila, the daughter of his paternal uncle Tariq bin Taymur.
The basic law of Oman, adopted in 1996, stipulates that the ruling family meets in the case of a vacuum in power to choose a successor to the sultan within three days.
If they fail to reach an agreement, the Council of Oman, which consists of the Council of State and Majlis ash-Shura (the Consultative Council), appoints the person named in a will left by the sultan.
“The accused will be presented for trial,” the official cited by ONA said.
UAE officials declined to comment.
In a September 2010 decree, the sultan canceled the state security court.
The dismantling of the spy ring could strain relations between the two countries that are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
In July 2008, Oman and the UAE completed the delineation of their 1,000-kilometre (625-mile) shared borders, in line with a June 2002 accord.
The two neighbours differ in politics.
Oman has very good relations with Iran, while the UAE is a staunch ally of the United States. The UAE also has a long-lasting dispute with Tehran over three Iran-controlled islands in the Gulf.
Qaboos, known for rarely travelling out of Oman, was the first foreign leader to travel to Iran since its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2008 re-election.
Oman has always had close relations with Iran and remained neutral during the war between the Islamic Republic and Iraq that lasted from 1980 to 1988, unlike most of its Arab neighbours who had supported the regime of the toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.