Guardian : King claims terror warnings ignored

Monday, October 29, 2007

King claims terror warnings ignored

Press Association | October 29, 2007

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia arrived in Britain for a state visit which threatens to be overshadowed by his claim that Britain failed to act on information passed on by his country which could have averted the July 7 suicide bombings in London.

The Foreign Office played down the king's remarks, insisting that no information was received ahead of the 2005 attacks which could have prevented them.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal pulled out of a "curtain-raiser" conference in London after Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced he was unable to attend because he is adopting a child in the USA.

This week's trip is the first state visit by a Saudi monarch for 20 years, and is regarded as "extremely important" by the Government, because of the desert kingdom's pivotal role in vital global issues including counter-terrorism, the Middle East peace process, Iraq and Iran.

But it has revived controversy over Saudi Arabia's human rights record and the Government's halting of a Serious Fraud Office bribery inquiry into the massive al-Yamamah arms deal.

Liberal Democrat acting leader Vince Cable announced he would boycott the visit, while backbench Labour MPs are planning to join human rights demonstrators staging a protest outside the Saudi embassy on Wednesday.

The Foreign Office said that human rights issues will not "dominate" ministerial talks with the visiting Saudi delegation, which culminate with face-to-face discussions between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Abdullah on Wednesday.

A senior official said "very substantive political discussions" are expected at the talks in 10 Downing Street, as Britain and Saudi Arabia share "common interests and common views" on the key regional and global issues, including counter-terrorism.

In an interview with the BBC ahead of his visit, Abdullah said the fight against terrorism needed much more effort by Western countries such as Britain and that al Qaida continued to be a big problem for his country. "We have sent information to Great Britain before the terrorist attacks in Britain but unfortunately no action was taken. And it may have been able to maybe avert the tragedy," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

A senior Foreign Office spokesman suggested that reports of the king's comments may have "skewed" his meaning, and pointed to a report last year by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee which found that there was "no specific intelligence" of the July 7 plot.

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