Britain's Cameron visits Gulf to sell jets, discuss security

British Prime Minister David Cameron held talks with United Arab Emirates leaders on Monday as he kicked off a three-day Gulf visit aimed at boosting ties and selling jet fighters.

Cameron's visit, which took him to both Dubai and UAE capital Abu Dhabi ahead of talks in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, came amid growing concern in the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states about Shiite Iran's nuclear ambitions.

In Dubai, Cameron held talks with emir Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan.

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They discussed "ways to strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation between the two friendly countries" as well as the regional political and security situation, the official WAM news agency said.

Cameron's office said the talks would address collaboration over next-generation aerospace equipment.

Cameron wants to push Britain's defence industry and "specifically promote the Typhoon fast jet to Gulf leaders", it said.

Cameron was to accompany senior UAE officials on an inspection of RAF Typhoons stationed at a UAE airbase as part of a training exercise.

The UAE has shown an interest in ordering up to 60 Typhoon Eurofighters to replace its ageing French Mirages, his office said.

Saudi Arabia is interested in a second "substantial" order on top of the 72 Typhoons it already has, and neighbouring Oman is in negotiations for 12 of the jets, it added.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a project which involves British defence giant BAE Systems and companies from Germany, Italy and Spain.

Trade between Britain and the UAE is worth £9.6 billion ($15.3 billion), according to a Dubai government statement.

Cameron told the BBC that his visit was not only focused on trade and investment.

"We're also partners in defence and security. We worked together in Libya, we worked together in Afghanistan and we'll be discussing all the key regional and global issues," he said.

Britain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia had a "shared commitment to security and stability and defeating the threats we face in the wider Middle East region," his office said.

The British premier said it was vital that Iran allay suspicions that its nuclear programme is cover for a drive for a weapons capability.

The international community must "keep up the pressure, keep up sanctions and keep up the work to persuade Iran to take a different path," he said.

At meeting with students at Abu Dhabi's Zayed University, Cameron criticised the failure of the United Nations to take stronger action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the face of repeated vetoes by Russia and China.

"I think in the case of Syria, the United Nations has let the world down," he said.

"Like-minded countries like our two countries should go on working together to try to see what more can we do to help the Syrian people to throw off this brutal dictator who's murdering so many.

"You know that Bashar al-Assad cannot possibly stay running his country... He has to go."

Cameron said he believed the British and UAE governments could have a dialogue about human rights issues.

"We must be respectful of the different traditions, different cultures," he said. "But I do think that standing up for human rights, standing up for the right of people to have a voice... is important.

"I think this is a discussion that our countries can have."

The UAE had reacted angrily last month to a European Union resolution criticising its human rights record following the arrest of more than 60 Islamists in recent months.

by Lynne Nahhas © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Nov 5, 2012