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UAE says Trump travel ban an internal affair, most Muslims unaffected

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates' foreign minister said on Wednesday President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries was an internal affair not directed at any faith, a more measure reaction than others from the region.

Trump's order affecting Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has triggered protests across the United States and beyond.

But Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said most Muslims and Muslim countries were not included in the ban and the named states faced "challenges" that they needed to address.

"The United States has taken a decision that is within the American sovereign decision," Sheikh Abdullah said at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Abu Dhabi.

"There are attempts to give the impression that this decision is directed against a particular religion, but what proves this talk to be incorrect first is what the U.S. administration itself says ... that this decision is not directed at a certain religion."

The UAE, a major oil exporter, is a close ally of the United States and a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamist militants in Syria.

Sheikh Abdullah gave a guarded welcome to another Trump initiative, a proposal for humanitarian safe zones in Syria.

"If the aim behind these areas is humanitarian and temporary and under an international umbrella, I think this is a basis we can work on," he said.

"But I think that it is still early to decide what our final stance toward these zones is before we hear from the new U.S. administration the ideas and develop that further," he added.

(Reporting by Noah Browning and Maha El Dahan, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Andrew Heavens)