Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Welcome to Britain. But don't mention bribery and corruption. This is business

Julian Borger
Tuesday October 30, 2007
The Guardian

".....The strong economic ties have been the focus of protest groups which contrast the Brown government's effusive relationship with the Saudi royal family, evidenced by this week's red carpet treatment of King Abdullah, and its indignant denunciations of other, poorer states with poor human rights records. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats' acting leader, has gone as far as boycotting all official functions.

Government officials shrugged off the criticism. One senior official said talk of human rights would "not dominate" the state visit. If anything, there was not enough business done between the two kingdoms, diplomats said.

William Patey, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told an Arab television channel yesterday that if he had one request to make of the Saudi government "I would ask them to make it easier for our businessmen to get visas."

As for the scandal over BAE secret payments to Saudi officials - including a reported $1bn to Prince Bandar bin Sultan - to facilitate a big BAE weapons sale in 1985, that was old news according to diplomats on both sides. The prince is now King Abdullah's national security adviser and was one of the first of the Saudi entourage to disembark with King Abdullah yesterday. Expressing the official British view on the BAE scandal, Mr Patey said: "The head of the Serious Fraud Office decided not to pursue this matter for a number of reasons. This is no longer in train."

The Saudi government marked the seriousness of its intent by the size of its entourage. It arrived in five commercial airliners and was reported to be more than 600 strong......"

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