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ABU DHABI: The UAE issued its first civil marriage license for a non-Muslim couple, state media reported Monday, as the Gulf country seeks to keep its edge over regional competitors.

The United Arab Emirates — where foreigners make up 90 percent of the approximately 10-million population — has been amending its laws to present itself as a modernising force in a largely conservative region.

The official WAM news agency said a Canadian couple were the first to marry under a new law on the personal status of non-Muslims in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi.

The move “contributes to the consolidation of Abu Dhabi’s position as a world leading destination for skills and expertise from around the world,” WAM said.

Civil marriage in the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, is uncommon and usually conducted under a religious authority of one of the three monotheistic beliefs. Civil marriages are allowed in Tunisia and Algeria. While some countries in the region allow civil unions based on certain conditions, some only recognise civil marriages conducted abroad and others not at all.

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