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Thread: Tony Blair In Secret Mission With The Sauds For £40bn Arms Deal

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    Tony Blair In Secret Mission With The Sauds For £40bn Arms Deal

    Blair in secret Saudi mission
    Expulsions link to £40bn arms deal

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/armstrade/...579155,00.html

    (Gold9472: I think that translates to $70Bil)

    David Leigh and Ewen MacAskill
    Tuesday September 27, 2005
    The Guardian

    Tony Blair and John Reid, the defence secretary, have been holding secret talks with Saudi Arabia in pursuit of a huge arms deal worth up to £40bn, according to diplomatic sources.

    Mr Blair went to Riyadh on July 2, en route to Singapore, where Britain was bidding for the 2012 Olympics. Three weeks later, Mr Reid made a two-day visit, when he sought to persuade Prince Sultan, the crown prince, to re-equip his air force with the Typhoon, the European fighter plane of which the British arms company BAE has the lion's share of manufacturing.

    Defence, diplomatic and legal sources say negotiations are stalling because the Saudis are demanding three favours. These are that Britain should expel two anti-Saudi dissidents, Saad al-Faqih and Mohammed al-Masari; that British Airways should resume flights to Riyadh, currently cancelled through terrorism fears; and that a corruption investigation implicating the Saudi ruling family and BAE should be dropped. Crown prince Sultan's son-in-law, Prince Turki bin Nasr, is at the centre of a "slush fund" investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

    The Saudis have been trying for years to get their hands on Mr Faqih, who they say was involved in a plot to assassinate the recently enthroned King Abdullah. Mr Faqih, who has asylum, denies support for violence, and privately neither the Foreign Office nor the security services regard him as a danger to Britain. Mr Masari fled Saudi Arabia in 1994, and the Major government made an unsuccessful attempt to exile him to the Caribbean island of Dominica under pressure from BAE.

    The Typhoon, currently entering service with the RAF, has a price of more than £45m a plane. Saudi Arabia previously bought a fleet of its predecessor Tornados from Britain in the Al Yamamah arms deal. Mike Turner, the chief executive of BAE, Britain's biggest arms company, was quoted in Flight International magazine on June 21, just before Mr Blair's Riyadh trip, saying: "The objective is to get the Typhoon into Saudi Arabia. We've had £43bn from Al Yamamah over the last 20 years and there could be another £40bn."

    There is concern within the Foreign Office at the apparent partiality of No 10 to BAE's commercial interests. Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief of staff, and his brother Charles, Lady Thatcher's former adviser and now a BAE consultant, are believed to be in favour of the deal.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Blair in Saudi Arabia ahead of G8

    http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exer...9854E702B9.htm

    Saturday 02 July 2005, 21:26 Makka Time, 18:26 GMT

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in the Saudi Arabian capital to push both a Middle East peace initiative and aid to Africa.

    Blair flew into an air base and was greeted by Riyadh governor Prince Salman bin Abd al-Aziz, the official SPA news agency reported on Saturday.

    He was due to meet with Crown Prince Abd Allah bin Abd al-Aziz to discuss "issues of mutual interest," including Iraq and the Middle East peace process, a Saudi official said.

    Abd Allah has been running Saudi Arabia's day-to-day affairs since King Fahd suffered a stroke a decade ago. The ailing monarch has been in a Riyadh hospital since 27 May.

    "The prime minister will want to discuss with the crown prince the Gleneagles (G8) summit and our European Union presidency, the situation in Iraq, the Middle East peace process, wider developments in the region and our important bilateral relationship," British embassy spokesman Barrie Peach said.

    Blair said he hoped new initiatives on the Middle East would emerge from the annual gathering of world leaders he is to host between 6–8 July in Gleneagles, Scotland.

    "There have been developments over the past few days that lead me to believe we may be able to make some progress there," Blair said on Friday, apparently referring to Israel's plan to withdraw soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip starting in August.

    "At the G8 next week, I hope, but I can't yet be sure, that there will be a specific initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and we're working on that at the moment," he said.

    Peace options
    Blair, whose country assumed the rotating EU presidency on Friday, said the 25-member bloc should renew efforts to assist the peace process.

    Saudi Arabia has come up with its own peace plan, which was authored by Abd Allah and endorsed at an Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, offering Israel peace and normal ties in return for its withdrawal from occupied Arab lands.

    Blair has also put aid to Africa at the top of his agenda for the G8 summit and will presumably urge Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, to contribute to efforts to lift the continent out of poverty.

    British Finance Minister Gordon Brown last month called on wealthy oil-producing Gulf countries, which have profited from recent record-high crude prices, to join the drive through both aid and debt relief.

    Blair visited Saudi Arabia in October 2001 as part of efforts to shore up an international anti-terror coalition during the US-British bombing of Afghanistan which followed the 11 September attacks on the United States. The Muslim kingdom has since been hit by terror at home.

    British interests
    Suspected al-Qaida fighters launched a spate of bombings and shootings in May 2003, triggering a government crackdown on extremists.

    In March, influential Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abd al-Aziz took a swipe at Britain for sheltering Saudi Islamist dissident Saad al-Faqih, head of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), who is seeking the overthrow of the Saudi ruling family.

    Britain in December froze MIRA's assets on suspicion that Faqih is associated with al-Qaida, after Washington named the London-based dissident as a suspected Al-Qaida financier.

    Saudi Arabia is a major client of Britain's arms industry and is linked to London by the multi-billion-dollar al-Yamamah contract signed in 1985, the biggest arms sale in British history.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Blair seeks Saudi support for G8

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4645569.stm

    7/3/2005

    UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has asked for Saudi Arabia to back a Middle East peace initiative he will present to G8 leaders at their upcoming summit.

    In talks with Crown Prince Abdullah during a flying visit to Riyadh, Mr Blair also praised Saudi efforts to reduce oil prices.

    They also discussed aid for Africa and the situation in Iraq.

    Mr Blair was en route to Singapore to lobby International Olympic Committee members on London's 2012 bid.

    Living standards
    He was seeking backing for a "package of support" he wants G8 leaders to extend to Palestinians ahead of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

    He wanted to focus on raising Palestinian living standards, he said.

    "We discussed the Middle East situation and I explained that we wanted to have an initiative at the G8 next week to help the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the disengagement," Mr Blair told reporters after the talks.

    "Obviously the support of Saudi Arabia would be important for that," he added.

    Israel's pullout, which is due to begin on 15 August, will see the removal of settlers from all 21 Gaza settlements, and four of 120 in the West Bank. It will keep control of Gaza's land and sea borders and its airspace.

    Israel has occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since capturing them in the 1967 war.

    Settlement activity in these areas is considered illegal under international law, although Israel does not accept this.

    Increased production
    Mr Blair and the prince had also discussed the world economy and the "significant and important part" oil prices played, the British prime minister said.

    "The Saudis have increased production and (are) doing what they can.

    "What we've got to make sure is that we do our best to try to reduce the prices to a more acceptable level but it's being driven by high demand."

    The prime minister's visit was his first to the Middle Eastern kingdom since 2001 and comes amid speculation about the country's future.

    King Fahd, thought to be 82, suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995 and was hospitalised in May with pneumonia sparking speculation about the succession.

    Crown Prince Abdullah has been running Saudi Arabia's day-to-day affairs since the King's stroke.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    The Gleneagles G8 Summit: Middle Eastern Issues on the Agenda

    http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/t...5.php?CID=2338

    By Simon Henderson
    July 5, 2005

    Beginning on July 6, British prime minister Tony Blair will host the G8 summit in Gleneagles, a hotel and golf course in Scotland. Africa and climate change are the two main topics on the agenda, but counterterrorism, proliferation, and political reform in the Middle East are scheduled to be discussed as well. The annual G8 summit has become the sole forum in which the leaders of the seven top industrialized countries (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States) and Russia meet to discuss and decide on courses of action. Diplomatic grandstanding and expected antiglobalization demonstrations aside, the summit is an opportunity to set the international political and bureaucratic agenda for months ahead.

    Blair in Saudi Arabia: A Preview?
    Following Blair’s sudden July 2 stopover in Riyadh (en route to Singapore to lobby the international Olympic committee on behalf of London’s bid for the 2012 games), many are expecting a new Middle East peace initiative, most likely a financial support package for the Palestinians to help raise their standard of living. (The main, unpublicized, purpose of Blair’s trip was to save Britain’s long-running, multibillion-dollar al-Yamamah defense supply contract with Saudi Arabia from encroachment by the French. See PolicyWatch no. 986.) Following talks with Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Blair told reporters, “We discussed the Middle East situation and I explained we wanted to have an initiative to help the Palestinian Authority in the wake of [Israeli] disengagement. Obviously, the support of Saudi Arabia would be important to that.” Blair also “praised” Saudi efforts to reduce oil prices (which had exceeded a record $60 per barrel five days earlier) and discussed aid to Africa and the situation in Iraq.

    Key Issues
    As with last year’s summit (hosted by President George W. Bush at Sea Island, Georgia), Iraq is not expected to loom large in the deliberations, despite the fact that it remains the main schism between the leaders. Bush and Blair continue to stand by their decision to go to war. On July 3, two of the principal world leaders who opposed the intervention—French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder—met with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the third main opponent, in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. They are presumably coordinating a united front for Gleneagles, where they will likely oppose Bush and Blair on issues where the two leaders are in accord while attempting to deepen the divide where the two have differences.

    At the 2004 summit, debt relief for Iraq was just one part of an agenda that included debt relief for poor nations, HIV vaccines, the Quartet Roadmap to Middle East peace, global trade, nuclear technology, and airline security. Attaining unanimity across such a spectrum of issues will be more challenging this time around. Broad support for the Middle East peace process is expected to be almost automatic, although the European G8 attendees and Russia, representing two parts of the Quartet (the others being the United States and the UN), are likely to press hard for language that continues to give them an active role.

    The principal proliferation concern is Iran, where the diplomatic efforts of the European Three (France, Germany, and Britain) to reach a compromise with Tehran were faltering even before the election of new hardline president Mahmoud Ahmedinezhad. Russia, meanwhile, continues to work on completing a nuclear power reactor in Iran and has declined to use its diplomatic leverage to slow Iran’s development of missiles based on Russian designs, capable of threatening much of the Middle East.

    Democratization and reform, along with the related issue of engagement with Islamists, form part of the agenda for what is described as “reform in the broader Middle East and North Africa,” a formulation that serves as a synonym for the problems of the Arab world. Although progress is expected to continue on a number of relevant fronts (including human rights, civic participation, microfinance, education, and literacy initiatives), British chairmanship of the summit will probably mean a change in tone from 2004, when it was under U.S. leadership.

    The recent surge in oil prices is not due for discussion—ironic considering that the origins of the G8 date to the 1973 oil crisis. The inaugural version of the meetings that would eventually become the G8 summit were convened by senior finance officials from the United States, Japan, and Europe. Subsequently, the gathering became a summit for heads of state, with Canada added in 1976 and Russia in 1998.

    Russia is a major oil producer and exporter in its own right. Hence, despite its questionable democratic credentials, it is no doubt enjoying the current high oil prices, even while other industrialized countries feel pressured by a price spike that does not even benefit their own treasuries.

    In fact, the United States will likely face more pressure at the meeting than Russia, particularly regarding climate change—a term that, as the Times of London noted in an interview last week, President Bush “conspicuously avoids using.” Blair’s views on this issue contrast sharply with Bush’s: “Climate change is a global problem which needs addressing now for the sake of future generations. The science is well-established and the dangers clear.” Bush has rejected the notion that he owes Blair for his support of the Iraq war. Instead, he has also put forward the view that the United States can offer the world technology to deal with any global warming problems, while continuing to rule out U.S. support for any Kyoto-style deal involving legally binding reductions on carbon emissions.

    A European Affair?
    To safeguard the U.S. position, Bush may hope to watch from the sidelines as Blair battles Chirac over which country becomes the dominant influence in Europe. (With Schroeder recently defeated in a vote of confidence, this contest has rapidly turned into a British/French affair.) Chirac is still smarting from the personal defeat represented by the recent French vote against the European constitution. At the same time, he likely remains hopeful that Paris will beat London on two key issues: the defense supply contract with Saudi Arabia and the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. (Regarding the latter, both Blair and Chirac are currently lobbying for their capitals in Singapore; the decision will be announced just before the Gleneagles meeting begins.) Coincidentally, Britain assumed rotating leadership of the European Union for the next six months on July 1.

    The Future of the G8
    Under the circumstances, Bush may well decide, as some commentators already have, that the annual G8 summits have already served their core purpose. It is unlikely that Moscow, due to host next year’s meeting, will continue the world vision promulgated by the leadership of the United States and Britain. The Middle East will remain on the agenda, but other forums may prove more useful places for discussion.

    Simon Henderson is a London-based senior fellow of The Washington Institute.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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