David Cameron defends Middle East visit insisting he WILL raise concerns about hosts' human rights records

The Prime Minister hopes to win billions of pounds of defence contracts during his visit

David Cameron today defended his visit to the Middle East – where he hopes to win billions of pounds of defence contracts - as he insisted he would not hesitate to raise concerns about his hosts’ human rights records.

He was speaking in Dubai where he hopes to help clinch a £6bn deal with the United Arab Emirates military for BAE Typhoon fighter jets.

Mr Cameron is making a three-day visit to the region, which will also include Saudi Arabia, which is also considering buying more typhoons.

The Saudi human rights record has been widely criticised, including its decision to deploy military hardware last year to Bahrain to help its Government crush protests by demonstrators.

The Prime Minister said: “On human rights, there are no no-go areas in this relationship.

“We discuss all of these things but we also show respect and friendship to a very old ally and partner.

“We have one of the strictest regimes anywhere in the world for sales of defence equipment but we do believe that countries have a right to self-defence and we do believe that Britain has important defence industries that employ over 300,000 people so that sort of business is completely legitimate and right.”

His spokesman said: “We have a large and important defence industry and the Prime Minister is keen to see that industry prosper – it’s important for jobs in this country. We have strict rules about sales of these things.”

Tomorrow’s meeting in Saudi Arabia is likely to focus on the threat from Iran and fears it has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.

Answering questions from students at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi today, Mr Cameron said Iran developing nuclear weapons would not only be a “desperately bad development for our world” but could also “trigger a nuclear arms race across the whole of the region”.

That would make the Middle East “a more unstable and more dangerous place”, he said.

“We should do everything we can to stop it happening.”

Tensions are heightened at present over the Iranian issue and Mr Cameron has been discussing future cooperation with the UAE on strategic defence issues as contingency plans are examined for any escalation of the issue - including a possible blocking of the Straits of Hormuz - a vital oil supply route.

He was pressed by several of those present about human rights and his opinion of the Arab Spring movements.

“I am a supporter of the Arab Spring,” he told the students.

“The idea of moving towards more open societies and more open democracies is good for the Middle East and North Africa,” he went on - though he insisted that it was also important to respect individual countries' journeys.

Noting that there was a majority of women among the audience, he said the UAE government was one “that takes very seriously the consent and concerns of its people.”

Mr Cameron today met British business leaders for a construction trade event as part of efforts to secure a share of lucrative investment on offer in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

He said British exports to the UAE were up 16% in the first half of the year and it was vital to be involved in the fastest-growing economies in the world to compete in the “global economic race”.

“It is not just about trade and investment,” the premier added.

“We are also partners in defence and security, we worked together in Libya and Afghanistan and we will be talking about all the key regional and global issues.”

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin