Monday, October 29, 2007

Queen to Give King Royal Treatment

Pomp, Planes and Controversy abound in the royal greetings between a meeting of the monarchs. The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, is rolling out the London red carpet for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia amidst growing public gasps of pained chagrin. It has been two decades since the last visit to London for a meeting of the two royal representatives. The King's five jumbo jets had barely touched down on Monday before the city started lamenting aloud about torture policies, the reduced roles of women in the Kingdom and the quashing of the bribery scandal connected to the al-Yamamah arms deal. Some Members of Parliament are dusting off their best British protest protocol against the Queen's Guest at the Saudi Arabian embassy . Britain is suffering a culture and religious clash as several mosques continue to release literature of hate believed to be sponsored from inside the Saudi Kingdom.

This two-day state visit is choreographed on both sides with military precision from beginning to end. Terrorism is expected to be a high level topic of interest. The King got the ball rolling with an interview with the BBC days before his arrival. Saudi Arabia is negotiating to purchase 72 Eurofighter Typhoon planes from the United Kingdom while the Brits are expecting to speak more forcefully about Human Rights. Odd, selling weapons to a nation state expected to use their weaponry for benign purposes. But the King was openly critical of Britain's lack of response on counter terrorism measures provided by the Saudis. Britain's foreign minister, David Milland, canceled his appearance with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal. At the ministry level, talks are not expected to occur around difficult subjects. Cocktail conversation could be awkward.

"We have sent information to Great Britain before the terrorist attacks in Britain but unfortunately no action was taken," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "And it may have been able to maybe avert the tragedy."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said no warnings were received before the July 7 attacks on London's transport system: "We made it very clear at the time that no specific warnings were received from any source."

"We do have a very close intelligence relationship with the Saudis," he added. "We just happen to disagree on this point."

Uneasy are the heads that wear the crowns. Complex world with long intertwined histories make for fascinating reading on both kingdoms. Norman Davies wrote the Isles: A History that gives fascinating detail of the collection of islands that comprise the Europe's United Kingdom. A History of Saudi Arabia from Madawi al-Rasheed offers explicit insights into the kingdom

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