Dubai: The controversy over a British author's book has hijacked the UAE's first international literature festival, but a positive outcome is that issues of censorship and cultural misconceptions will be debated in Dubai, the director of the festival said on Monday.

"Geraldine Bedell was never invited and her book The Gulf Between Us has not been banned by the UAE," Isobel Abulhoul, director of the festival reiterated.

She wondered why the controversy had surfaced now when she had rejected the publisher Penguin's bid last September to launch the book here in Dubai. Abulhoul hinted the controversy was created as a publicity stunt.

One of the fallout's of this issue was that the celebrated Canadian author Margaret Atwood pulled out, but has reconfirmed her support for the festival, Abulhoul said in a statement.

"We are naturally disappointed that Ms Atwood cannot now attend the Festival in person after the unfortunate chain of events over the past week, initiated by a series of misleading and incomplete press reports," she added.

Atwood writing in the Guardian said she was misinformed, and goes on to say: "So what do I do now? Having leapt into this dog's breakfast, I have it all over my face. And Bedell or no Bedell, the question of censorship remains. Every country has some form of the not-permitted. In Canada, child pornography and hate literature are both illegal. What should not be permitted seems self-evident to those within a culture, though often bizaree to those outside it."

The controversy erupted after a Times article which purported that Bedell's book was banned by the UAE and censored because of a character who is gay. Abulhoul wondered why the article was taken as gospel and why nobody checked the facts.