United Kingdom rolls out red carpet for Saudi crown prince amid protests

PR and Spin                              Lobbying’s Hidden Influence

The debate took place as Prince Mohammed lunched with the British monarch on the first leg of a trip packed with displays of diplomatic affection created to help widen long-standing defense ties into a more far-reaching partnership.

Britain is looking for trading partners as it exits the European Union, and energy powerhouse Saudi Arabia needs to convince skeptical investors about its domestic reforms.

One person was dressed up as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, tossing replica child-sized body bags onto a heap as another activist, dressed as May, counted a stack of cash.

"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.

"We are free to, and often do, challenge the activities of companies and organisations that are also our advertisers and sponsors", they said.

Bin Salman was welcomed at London airport by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson late on Tuesday.

He had a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday morning before meeting at Downing Street with UK Prime Minster Theresa May and dining with Prince Charles and Prince William.

Meanwhile adverts promoting bin Salman's attempts to modernise Saudi Arabia have been spotted around London.

Britain is vying to land the stock market listing of state oil firm Saudi Aramco, but no decision is expected this week.

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He and his delegation will also seek to reassure global business leaders rattled by the Crown Prince's recent anti-corruption sweep, in which about 200 people - including business executives, officials and at least 17 princes - were arrested past year.

Saudi Arabia has bought advertising across London and in newspapers to welcome the prince to the country.

Saudi's ambitious heir wants to show that "shock" reforms have made his country a better place to invest and a more tolerant society.

McDonald asked the Prime Minister if she would find time to raise with the Crown Prince the case of Raif Badawi.

And in an extraordinary allegation, Mr Corbyn told Theresa May: "It can not be right that her Government is colluding in what the United Nations says is evidence of war crimes".

The campaign group Avaaz, which organised one of the protests, said: "The people of Yemen have faced daily bombing, starvation, and a cholera outbreak for three years, due to Saudi Arabia's failed military campaign and unwillingness to support peace negotiations".

"I will be raising concerns about human rights when I meet him".

May's government has remained defiant in the face of growing pressure to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia, defending the sales amid evidence of war crimes and civilian deaths in Yemen.

Campaigners say that a government that respects human rights would suspend arms sale to Saudi and demand greater transparency from the industry as a whole instead of "hosting the architect of war in Yemen". The two countries could sign more than a dozen memorandums of understanding during his visit and may seek to improve the visa relationship between their countries to ease travel for business representatives and tourists.

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".

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