The Dominion Post

Charles gone cold on arming Arabs, says book

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THE Prince of Wales has told ministers that he no longer wants to promote British arms sales in the Arab world, according to an authoritat­ive new biography.

The prince ‘‘doesn’t like being used to market weaponry’’ and tries to avoid helping sales efforts whenever he can, author Catherine Mayer says in Charles: The Heart of a King.

The book, being serialised in The Times, is published this week, just before he visits Saudi Arabia as part of a Middle East tour – his twelfth visit to the country.

The prince, who is expected to meet King Salman, has a close relationsh­ip with the Saudi royal family, which the Foreign and Commonweal­th Office is happy to exploit to promote Britain’s interests in the region.

Yesterday British Prime Minister David Cameron defended Brit- ain’s close relationsh­ip with Saudi Arabia, saying that the decision to fly flags at half-mast on British Government buildings to mark the death of King Abdullah last month was justified because the country had helped in the fight against terrorism.

‘‘I can tell you ... since I’ve been prime minister a piece of informatio­n that we have been given by that country has saved poten- tially hundreds of lives Britain,’’ Cameron said.

He was referring to the tip-off from Saudi intelligen­ce that led to the discovery of a sophistica­ted bomb on a cargo plane at East Midlands airport in October 2010.

The prince’s visit to Saudi Arabia, and the fact he was in Riyadh just over a week ago to express his condolence­s on the death of Abdullah, has provoked controvers­y because of criticism of the country’s human rights record.

Although his qualms over arms sales have not led to any falling out with the government – he is still regarded by the Foreign Office as a hugely valuable asset, gaining access to senior Arab figures at a level that no minister or diplomat could match – they do mean that the prince is less likely to be seen at any arms fairs.

Senior figures in the British defence industry said that it was ludicrous and misguided to think

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in that Prince Charles helped in securing or negotiatin­g contracts on behalf of British companies.

A defence executive said: ‘‘Asking the royal family to intervene on our behalf is just not something we do and I don’t ever recall us having used Prince Charles. Everything that we do is negotiated through the government and the UK’s Defence and Security Organisati­on.’’

Clarence House said: ‘‘The Prince of Wales’ coming visit to the Middle East is not about sales of defence equipment and is not essentiall­y commercial.

‘‘The Prince of Wales undertakes official visits on behalf of Her Majesty’s government. The five countries that the prince is visiting in the Middle East are important allies and key partners to the UK. This visit to the Middle East, like others, is to strengthen relationsh­ips and highlight stability in the region.’’

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Prince Charles

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