The bomb discovered in Dubai in a shipment of air cargo from Yemen that was bound for the United States contained the powerful explosive PETN and bore the hallmarks of al Qaida, police said.
The white powder explosives were discovered in the ink cartridge of a computer printer, said a police statement carried by official state news agency WAM.
The device was rigged to an electric circuit, and a mobile phone chip was hidden inside the printer.
The bomb, sent from Yemen in a FedEx shipment, was prepared in a "professional manner", police said.
PETN is the same chemical used in the failed attempt to blow up a US-bound plane on Christmas Day. That plot has been linked to al Qaida's offshoot in Yemen.
"The plot style carries features similar to previous attacks carried out by terrorist organisations like al Qaida," police in Dubai said.
"Swift action has enabled Dubai Police to foil a potential act of terror in the place the package was bound to," the statement said.
Police said they were tipped off to the device by a call from abroad, but did not name the country.
The tip-off warned of the possibility of an explosive device hidden in postal packages onboard the FedEx flight originating from Yemen to Dubai, according to the statement.
Police said tests showed the printer cartridge also contained lead azide, an explosive compound that can be used in bomb detonators.