British PM and Bahrain crown prince hold talks

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British Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to discuss the crackdown on anti-regime protesters in Bahrain during talks with the Gulf state's crown prince on Thursday.

Bahrain has been strongly criticised by international human rights groups for its crackdown, which has included requesting troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia to help put down protests against the ruling family.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa's visit to London comes after he declined an invitation to the wedding of Prince William and Princess Catherine last month amid fears that his presence might act as a distraction.

Cameron's spokesman said the talks were expected to focus on the anti-regime uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa and the Middle East peace process.

"Bahrain has been seeking to reform their political system in a number of ways, and that is something we welcome."

Asked why Britain was welcoming the Crown Prince, when British forces were involved in military action to prevent the repression of protesters in Libya, the spokesman said: "We said all along that the situation in different countries is different.

"There are different circumstances and we need to reflect that. Clearly, in all cases we would support reform and dialogue."

Denis MacShane, a former junior foreign minister from the opposition Labour party, said Cameron should not be "rolling out the red carpet for Bahrain's torturer-in-chief".

"We have well-documented reports of torture, including the torture of women doctors, killings, and even the Saudis sending tanks across to Bahrain to crush the protests in the time-honoured fashion of the Soviets in Prague or Budapest," said MacShane.

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen called for Cameron to use the meeting "to make it absolutely clear that the Bahraini government must end its relentless crackdown on human rights."

Britain has close trade links to Bahrain, but as protests began sweeping the Gulf this year, London revoked licences for the export of some security equipment to the country fearing it might be used to suppress protests.

© 2011 AFP

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