Britain has voiced "concern" about the crackdown on anti-government protests in Bahrain and called on the government of the Gulf state to embrace reform, a government spokesman said Friday.
The appeal was made by Prime Minister
David Cameron in talks in London late Thursday with the crown prince of Bahrain, Salman al-Khalifa, DPA reported.
A spokesman said Cameron told his guest that "all sides should address their grievances through genuine and constructive dialogue."
He had "raised concerns about the situation in Bahrain and stressed the importance of the government moving to a policy of reform rather than repression."
However, the public handshake between Cameron and the crown prince on the steps of Downing Street was condemned by human rights groups and by the media.
"Cameron embraces tyranny," said the Independent newspaper. It said al-Khalifa was "on a mission to repair the damaged reputation of his dynasty."
The Gulf state is an important strategic and business partner for Britain, as well as a leading importer of British-made arms.
Human rights groups have criticized the British government's alleged cautious attitude towards Bahrain, in comparison with the military action taken against Libya.
The talks in Downing Street came just three weeks after al-Khalifa turned down an invitation to the royal wedding in London at the last minute, for fear that his presence at the nuptials of Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, could overshadow the event.