Friday, January 13, 2012

Britain to boost arms sales to Saudis

Source: Press TV

British Prime Minister David Cameron has made his first visit to Saudi Arabia as the UK premier to win lucrative weapons deals in the Middle East's most autocratic regime.

Cameron's visit to the Saudi monarchy comes amid warnings from human rights groups and MPs over the sale of arms, as well as a "shocking disrespect for basic human rights" in the Kingdom.

Amnesty International's UK campaigns director Tim Hancock, said any future arms sales to the regime should take account of Saudi Arabia's behaviour.

“In recent years we've documented the indiscriminate bombing of Yemeni villages by Saudi Arabian jets," Hancock said.

"So if Mr Cameron is discussing arms deals on this trip he must ensure that they will be subject to rigorous controls and that no equipment is shipped to the country if there is the slightest risk of it being used to commit human rights abuses", added the Amnesty's director.

The trip comes at a time when the Foreign Office has posted a warning on its website calling on all Britons travelling to Saudi Arabia to exercise vigilance.

As Cameron was discussing deals to sell armored personnel carriers, sniper rifles, small arms ammunition and weapon sights to the Saudi regime, the monarchy's troops killed an anti-regime's protester in eastern Qatif region, in a demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners in the country.

His visit also comes at a time when MPs on the Committee on Arms Export Controls demand to know why the government has continued to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, “given there was some unrest”.

After the prime minister's meeting with King Abdullah a Downing Street spokesperson said the two leaders "agreed to strengthen co-operation in a range of areas."

"The two leaders also discussed recent developments in the region, in particular their shared concerns about the situation in Syria, Iran and Yemen” , said the spokesperson.

David Cameron discussed the future of Syria and his country's plan for ousting of President Assad, when the Saudis have not only been involved in the crushing of dissent in Bahrain, but also in their own eastern province of Qatif.

Last year, the British premier conducted a mini-tour of the region, but he did not visit the Kingdom. That tour, as evidenced by later agreement was merely designed to flog weapons to oppressive regimes as the Islamic Awakening swept across the region.

Cameron was joined on the trip by British business leaders, including representative from the defence giants BAE, Thales and Qinetiq.

Today's trip to Saudi Arabia also comes as a committee of MPs questioned why the government had not blocked weapons sales to Saudi Arabia given the widening unrest earlier in the country.

"Why does the UK believe that the assurances relating to end-use will not be breached?", asked the committee on arms exports controls.

Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East, with bilateral trade worth 15 billion pounds a year. Saudi investment in Britain is worth more than 62 billion pounds.

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