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With one real estate megaproject after another, including an man-made resort island shaped like a coconut tree and the world’s tallest skyscraper, Dubai has been aiming to turn the tiny emirate into the financial center of the Middle East.

On Nov. 25, the state-run Dubai World conglomerate asked its creditors for a standstill on billions of dollars of debt. Concern quickly spread that the move would send shock waves through the global economy like the collapse of Lehman Brothers did in September 2008.

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