David Cameron defends respect paid to King Abdullah: One piece of Saudi information 'saved hundreds of lives in Britain'

The Prime Minister said the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia had to do with tackling terrorism - as well as for oil

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The Independent Online

David Cameron has defended the government's reaction to the death of Saudi Arabia's former leader, King Abdullah bin Abdulazizby, stating that a piece of information from the country helped to save hundreds of lives in Britain.

The decision to mark the death of King Abdullah by flying flags at half-mast in Whitehall was criticised by MPs unsettled by the monarch’s shocking human rights record. The Conservative leader was speaking to young voters during a question and answer session on Monday at Facebook's London offices called Stand Up Be Counted: Ask The Leaders.

When asked about his own tribute to the former leader, Cameron said, "We don't agree with lots of things that the Saudis do. We don't agree with the way they treat people, for instance criminals. We make clear those differences. But when the king died, as a mark of respect, we thought it was right to show that respect."

Yet a young voter, Franchesca Hashemi pressed the Prime Minister, asking, "But isn't it disrespectful to the people who the Saudi king has sentenced to 1,000 lashes?"

"We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia partly over things like trying to achieve peace in the Middle East and crucially, over fighting terrorism," Cameron responded.

"One time, since I've been Prime Minister, a piece of information that we've been given by that country has saved potentially hundreds of lives here in Britain. You can be Prime Minister and just say exactly what you think about every regime in the world and make headlines and give great speeches, but my first job is to keep this country safe from terrorism."

Notably, one member of the audience also asked whether the country's relationship with Saudi Arabia was to do with oil, to which the Prime Minister replied: "Yes, of course.

"Britain needs to have relationships with countries that we trade with, including those that we buy oil and gas from. Indeed, I would argue if you have a relationship with them and have a way of talking to them, they're more likely to listen to you."