Saudi says human rights not raised

Other News Materials 2 November 2007 06:07 (UTC +04:00)

Saudi Arabia contradicted the government on Thursday by denying it had raised human rights issues during a state visit by King Abdullah to London this week.

The Saudi leader's visit was controversial, with the leader of the Liberal Democrats boycotting a formal banquet hosted by the Queen over allegations of corruption and human rights abuse.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said in a statement after Brown met Abdullah that "human rights issues were raised by Her Majesty's Government during this visit".

But in an interview with Channel 4 television, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said such issues had never come up.

"Human rights is something between a government and its people. We are responsible to our people, what we do to them, and they are the ones who will question us about what rights we guarantee. But we haven't talked as government to government on this issue."

Asked to respond to al-Faisal's remarks that human rights were not discussed, a spokesman for Brown's Downing Street office said: "I can only assume that he wasn't aware that they were raised. But we're plainly clear that they have been."

Brown's predecessor Tony Blair attracted criticism last year for calling off a corruption probe into whether Britain's biggest defence contractor BAE Systems bribed Saudi officials to win a huge contract.

Small groups of protesters calling for the probe to be reopened jeered at Abdullah during his visit.

Abdullah also annoyed his hosts before his arrival by accusing Britain of failing to pursue intelligence leads from Saudi Arabia that he said could have prevented attacks on London transport that killed 52 people in 2005. ( Reuters )