Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be top of the agenda when David Cameron visits Saudi Arabia tomorrow during a three-day visit to the Gulf and the Middle East.
Talks will also cover the violence in Syria and the risk that the turmoil could spread to neighbouring countries including Lebanon.
Iran was today accused by the United Nations of not co-operating with an investigation into its suspected secret plans to design nuclear weapons.
At the start of his visit, Mr Cameron told students in Abu Dhabi that Iran acquiring atomic weaponry would be a “desperately bad development for our world” and could also “trigger a nuclear arms race across the whole of the region”.
The Prime Minister hopes his visit will generate orders running into billions of pounds from rapidly-growing economies for a range of British products, including arms sales.
Britain is pitching for a £6bn deal with the United Arab Emirates military for BAE Typhoon fighter jets, as well as an order from the Saudis for more typhoons.
Amnesty International UK has accused Mr Cameron of a “deeply-disturbing trade-off” between trade and strategic interests and the promotion of rights and democratic reform.
Allan Hogarth, its head of policy and government affairs, said: “Selling arms to countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE should only be considered if there are absolutely watertight guarantees over them not being used to commit human rights violations.”
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.
But Mr Cameron 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.”
He also reaffirmed his support for the Arab Spring movements which have toppled governments in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies