British PM meets Saudi king as Gulf tensions run high

13th January 2012, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron held talks Friday with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh, state media reported, as tensions soar between the West and Tehran, the oil-rich kingdom's arch-rival in the Gulf.

The two leaders discussed "regional and international developments as well as the various means of strengthening cooperation between both countries," the official SPA news agency said, without elaborating.

The meeting was attended by top Saudi officials.

Cameron's first visit to the OPEC kingpin comes as Western governments, including Britain, have moved to step up sanctions over Iran's controversial nuclear programme, threatening an embargo on vital oil exports that has drawn an angry response from Tehran.

Britain has been seeking to strengthen ties with oil-rich Saudi Arabia and boost exports to its largest Middle East trading partner.

Annual bilateral trade is worth 15 billion pounds ($23 billion), while Saudi investments in Britain amount to more than 62 billion pounds.

As well as discussing closer commercial ties, the talks were expected to focus on energy security, with Iran having threatened to shut the strategic Strait of Hormuz -- a chokepoint for a fifth of the world's oil -- if it is attacked or if heavy sanctions are imposed.

The violence in Iran's key regional ally Syria is also of pressing mutual concern to Britain and Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations estimated last month that more than 5,000 people had been killed since March in a crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.


© 2012 AFP

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