WTA gets written assurance for Peer

LONDON -- The United Arab Emirates assured the WTA in writing it will allow Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer to play at next month's Dubai tournament after barring her last year.

Peer had been denied a visa apparently because of anti-Israel sentiments in the Gulf state following a three-week war between Israel and Islamic militants in Gaza. The UAE does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Dubai Tennis Championships start Feb. 15, and the WTA said Wednesday it received word from the UAE Ministry of Interior that Peer may compete.

The tournament was fined $300,000 last year and told to meet certain requirements -- one of them written confirmation about Peer.

"Last year there were just verbal assurances," WTA spokeswoman Katie Scott said Wednesday.

The UAE government could not immediately be reached for comment, but tournament spokesman Ben Nichols said organizers have "received written confirmation from the UAE authorities that all WTA and ATP participants, without any exception, are welcome to play."

After Peer's ban last year, Israeli player Andy Ram received a visa to play the following week in the men's tournament. Andy Roddick, the 2008 champion in Dubai, skipped last year's event because of the Peer dispute, saying he "didn't agree with what went on over there."

Earlier Wednesday, the 30th-ranked Peer faced anti-Israeli protests at a tournament in Auckland, New Zealand. Police arrested one person outside the stadium while Peer beat Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-0.

Five people were arrested Thursday while protesting the presence of Peer at the ASB Classic.

Police, acting on a noise complaint, dispersed about 20 protesters who blew whistles and chanted outside the downtown Auckland stadium.

The demonstrators, from the New Zealand group Global Peace and Justice, said they were protesting Israel's treatment of Palestinians and had called on Peer to withdraw from the tournament. Those arrested Thursday included group leader John Minto.

Peer appeared unaffected as she beat Russia's Maria Kirlenko 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 to advance to the tournament quarterfinals.

On Wednesday, she said that she accepted the right of the group to protest but felt unfairly targeted.

"I also want peace in the world, but I don't think this is the place for this protest," Peer said.

"It's not my fault and I think my country is fine. I don't want to go into politics, but I don't think these guys know what they are shouting," she said.