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    Scientist says 'Asian brown cloud' threatens Gulf


    SAUDI ARABIA: February 25, 2004

    DUBAI - A body of pollution which has been identified in the skies across Asia is now threatening to engulf the Middle East and make the planet a drier place, a leading environmental scientist said on Tuesday.

    Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who led 1999 research into what was dubbed the "Asian Brown Cloud," said there was evidence the Gulf region was being sucked into a global pollution circuit moving several miles above ground.

    "The Middle East has to be part of our program because here the problem is that the dust and pollution can interact," Ramanathan said on the sidelines of a conference on atmospheric pollution in the Gulf city of Dubai.

    "I presumed this region was clean, but the dust haze in the desert is a lot less than here in the city. Then I saw this picture," he said, pointing to aerial shots of a cloud hanging over Dubai, a modern city of skyscrapers on the edge of desert.

    "This haze is about 300 meters (yards) above the ground, I would say. It could be coming locally or from several hundred kilometers away," he said, adding no research had been done into the effects of oil refineries along the Gulf coastline.

    Ramanathan's team, backed by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), first identified a blanket of chemicals and dust from cars, aerosols and agricultural and industrial waste across most of South Asia in 1999.

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