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United Arab Emirates to introduce compulsory military service for males

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun the process of introducing compulsory military service for adult males. Military service for females will remain optional.

The UAE cabinet applied a draft law on Sunday to make it compulsory for men aged between 18 and 30 to serve in the military.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, said the policy aims to "strengthen the sense of belonging to the nation among young people and plant in them discipline and sacrifice."

In a statement published in his official Twitter account Shiek Mohammed said: "Protecting the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty and the new law will be implemented on all."

"Our gains are a red line that must be protected."

Under the bill, which still needs to be approved by the largely advisory Federal National Council, Emirati men who have finished secondary school will have to serve for nine months. Those without a secondary school diploma will be obliged to serve for two years.

The service will continue to be voluntary for women.

It was not immediately clear when the system would start being implemented.

Observers say the move, at least in part, is designed to boost the number of Emirati national in the federation's armed forces. The military and police force rely heavily on foreigners who make up around 90 percent of the UAE's population.

It is also considered possible that the UAE is seeking to bolster its forces to deter potential threats from nearby Iran despite longstanding trade and cultural links between the two. The UAE may also be wary of nearby tensions in Syria, Iraq, and Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The move follows similar action taken by Qatar which approved a draft law mandating men in the Gulf state to do military service in November.

Kuwait is also debating the introduction of compulsory military service.

ccp/hc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)