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Date TimeMarch 07, 2018
VoiceThe Saudi crown prince faced heavy criticism from British opposition figures at the start of a three-day visit to the UK that includes lunch with the Queen and dinner with the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge.

Mohammed bin Salman was accused of funding extremism in the UK, committing human rights abuses domestically, and breaching international humanitarian law in Yemen, where Riyadh has intervened in a war that has killed thousands of civilians and driven the Middle East’s poorest country to the brink of famine.
Campaigners against the war also rallied near parliament and held a protest outside the gates of Downing Street.
In his most unbridled attack yet on Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the three-year Yemen conflict, Jeremy Corbyn said during prime minister’s questions the country was responsible for putting millions at risk of starvation.
The British military was colluding in an unlawfully conducted war, the Labour leader said, claiming UK personnel were directing the Saudi military campaign from Riyadh.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, condemned ministers for rolling out the red carpet and providing the equivalent of a state visit to “a dictatorial head of a theocratic, medieval regime”. He called on the UK government to demand the Saudis end the systematic bombing of civilian targets in Yemen, which the crown prince initiated.
The shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, speaking in the House of Commons, accused ministers of “bowing and scraping” to the crown prince.
Bin Salman, Thornberry said, was “the architect of the Saudi airstrikes and blockade in Yemen, funding jihadi groups in the Syrian civil war, ordering his guards to beat up the prime minister of Lebanon and in the eight months since he became crown prince doubling the number of executions”.
“We are supposed to ignore all that just because he is to allow Saudi women to drive, just as they can everywhere else in the world. The British government pretends to care about human rights and war crimes but when it comes to Saudi Arabia in Yemen there is nothing but a shameful silence.”
The UK government’s sole concern, she said, was how to plug the hole in growth and trade because of Brexit.
Bin Salman’s trip – during which he will also visit Cairo and New York – is the crown prince’s first foreign tour as heir to the Saudi throne. It is seen as his opportunity to project the kingdom as a reforming, youthful society determined to assume the status of a major G20 economic power.
Ministers had expected criticism about the scale of the hospitality offered to Bin Salman, but the level of hostility from senior opposition figures will have taken them aback.
The British royal family has been deployed in an effort to secure major commercial contracts, which has created some unease among Conservative MPs who think the UK should at least be seen as even-handed in the bitter diplomatic dispute between the Saudis and Qatar. A coalition of UK human rights groups is planning to protest against the visit outside Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.
The Middle East minister Alistair Burt said Thornberry was not the sole holder of conscience in UK politics, and warned that if she was ever in government and seeking a relationship with the leader of a country likely to be the most powerful in the Middle East for the next decades, she might need to review some of her personal comments.
Urging a ceasefire in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels, Corbyn said a humanitarian disaster was taking place.
“Germany has suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia but British arms sales have sharply increased and British military advisers are directing the war,” he said. “It cannot be right that her [Theresa May’s] government is colluding in what the UN says is evidence of war crimes.”
May defended the red-carpet treatment for the crown prince, saying the close counter-extremism alliance with the Saudis had saved hundreds of lives in Britain. She said UK pressure had led the Saudis to lift the blockade of the Houthi-held Yemeni port of Hodeidah in December and insisted the Saudi intervention had been backed by UN resolutions.
May insisted she would raise human rights issues when she sat down with Bin Salman, but added: “The link that we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country.” She said the task of the UK was to aid the reforms under way in the country, including those affecting women’s rights.
Referencing alleged British collusion in the Yemen civil war, she said: “We have encouraged the Saudi government to ensure that when there are allegations that activity has taken place which is not in line with international humanitarian law they investigate that, they learn the lessons from it.”
May also said the most important finding of the unpublished Home Office report into funding of extremism in the UK was that “contrary to popular conception, Islamist extremists draw most of their financial support from domestic and not overseas sources.”

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