David Cameron has urged the Crown Prince of Bahrain to embrace "reform rather than repression" in response to pro-democracy protests in the Gulf state, Downing Street said.
The Prime Minister made the plea during Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa's visit to Number 10 - an engagement criticised by human rights campaigners after his regime's bloody crackdown against Bahraini demonstrators.
It came as President Barack Obama gave a major speech throwing US weight behind the Arab Spring protests which have been shaking the autocracies of the Middle East.
Downing Street said Mr Cameron, who shook hands with the Crown Prince on the steps of Number 10 yesterday, "raised concerns" inside about the situation in Bahrain.
Bahrain has been widely condemned for inviting neighbouring Saudi Arabia to send in troops to help put down protests against the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty.
The Sheikh's visit to London comes after he declined an invitation to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last month amid fears that protests against his presence might tarnish the event.
Bahrain is due on June 1 to lift the martial law imposed in March following weeks of pro-democracy protests which resulted in the deaths of at least 29 people.
Hundreds of people have been arrested and dozens put on trial in special courts.
A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Cameron and the Crown Prince discussed both Bahrain and the wider Middle East, adding: "The Prime Minister raised concerns about the situation in Bahrain and stressed the importance of the Government moving to a policy of reform rather than repression.
"That all sides should address their grievances through genuine and constructive dialogue.
"The Prime Minister emphasised his support for the Crown Prince's long-standing work to achieve political and economic progress in Bahrain, and said that Britain would back efforts to normalise the situation and return Bahrain to a credible long-term process of reform."
Challenged earlier why Britain was welcoming the Crown Prince when it was engaged in military action in Libya, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said "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," he said.
In a speech at the State Department in Washington last night, Mr Obama made clear that the US stood behind the Arab Spring protesters in the Middle East and North Africa.
He called for a "new chapter in American diplomacy" that offered support for the rights of people demanding freedom.
Welcoming Mr Obama's speech, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK would stand alongside the US and continue to confront governments that use violence to quell demonstrations.
He said the President had set out the importance of a response to the Arab Spring that matched "the aspirations of people across the region".
"The UK will stand alongside the US in supporting those in the region who demand more open, transparent government and genuine political and economic participation," he said.
"We have already begun work on this through our new Arab Partnership Initiative.
"At the same time, we will continue to confront those who attempt to use violence to repress peaceful protest."
The Bahraini Crown Prince's visit to Number 10 was met with a wave of opposition.
Ahead of the meeting, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "It is a huge error of judgment to fete the Crown Prince of Bahrain at a time when his regime is arresting, jailing, torturing and killing peaceful democracy protesters.
"Britain should not be conducting business as usual with a tyranny that is guilty of gross human rights abuses."
Former foreign minister Denis MacShane also said Mr Cameron should not be "rolling out the red carpet for Bahrain's torturer-in-chief at Downing Street".Reuse content