Gulf lobbyist and Cook aide run MPs' group

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The Independent Online
A SENIOR aide to Robin Cook is running an all-party group of MPs together with a lobbyist who represents Gulf states with appalling human rights records, The Independent has learned.

The revelation that Ken Purchase, the Foreign Secretary's parliamentary private secretary, has given Omar Al Hassan access to Parliament raises serious concerns about Labour's "ethical" foreign policy.

Mr Al Hassan, who runs a group called the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies, recently accompanied nine MPs on a trip to Bahrain. The country has had no democracy since 1975 and dissidents have been tortured and murdered. In the late Eighties, Mr Al Hassan lobbied for Saddam Hussein.

On their return, the MPs received gifts of watches via Mr Purchase and were told it would be discourteous to return them.

Mr Al Hassan, a Palestinian, is administrator of the All-Party Bahrain Group, whose secretary is Mr Purchase. In 1983 he was dismissed from a job with the Arab League in London after pounds 15,500 went missing. He now runs the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies, which works in this country on behalf of the Bahrain government.

One MP described Mr Al Hassan as being "like Ian Greer without the laughs ... I am astonished that Robin Cook is allowing his PPS to fraternise with him". The MPs who went to Bahrain with Mr Purchase were Labour colleagues Lawrence Cunliffe; Lindsay Hoyle; Ashok Kumar; Dan Norris ; Andy Love; and Claire Ward. The Tory MPNigel Evans and Liberal Democrat Nigel Jones also went.

Mr Al Hassan said he had been wrongly dismissed by the Arab League and was the victim of a "political conspiracy". He said there was no shame in having lobbied for Iraq during the Eighties.

Mr Purchase said Bahrain had made immense steps in improving human rights and Mr Al Hassan's past was irrelevant.

Torture in Bahrain, page 3