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Saudi-british London Talks Boosted by New Blast at Israel

June 11, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Talks between British leaders and a top level Saudi Arabian delegation headed by King Khalid got off to a good start today following the British government’s strong condemnation of Israel’s air strike against Iraq’s nuclear reactor Sunday and profuse praise for Saudi statesmanship voiced by the Queen at a State banquet for the Saudi royal visitor last night.

Khalid and his Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs lunched with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as her guests at No. 10 Downing Street today. The Ministers are also holding private talks with their British counterparts. The government nevertheless has been extremely nervous lest any last minute incident upset their notoriously sensitive guests. But the Israeli air strike at Iraq may make the Khalid visit more successful than his hosts had anticipated.

This may have added to the vehemence of Thatcher’s condemnation of the Israeli raid shortly after the arrival of the Saudi party. She called it “a grave breach of international law” and rejected a suggestion by pro-Israel Labor MK Greville Janner that Israel had performed an international service by removing Iraq’s nuclear capability. She said she would have used just as strong terms to condemn the aggressor if Israel had been the target of an attack.

Britain’s strong reaction to the Israeli raid underscored the European dimensions of the Anglo-Saudi talks. Britain will shortly assume the rotating presidency of the European Economic Community (EEC) Council of Ministers. The Saudis are pressing the Europeans to come out even more strongly on behalf of the Palestinian cause.

Britain, for its part, is seeking important military and civilian orders from the wealthy Saudis. United Kingdom exports to Saudi Arabia will approach $1 billion this year but are still far behind American and French sales to that country, particularly of military hardware and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of Israel clashed in the House of Commons yesterday. Janner, who is president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, intervened strongly on behalf of Israel but was shouted down by pro-Arab MPs led by Laborite Andrew Fauls.

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