Saudi King says Britain failing to tackle terrorism

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LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) Britain failed to act on information passed to it by Saudi Arabia which might have helped prevent suicide bombings in London in 2005 that killed 52 people, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said today.

In an interview with the BBC on the eve of a state visit to Britain, King Abdullah accused London of failing to do enough to combat international terrorism and said al Qaeda remained a major threat.

''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.'' The July 7, 2005 suicide bombings on London's transport system were Britain's most devastating peacetime attack.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said no warnings were received before the attacks: ''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.'' King Abdullah is due to arrive in Britain later today for a state visit. His visit has prompted protests from critics of the Saudi government's human rights record and demonstrations are planned outside the Saudi embassy in London later this week.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband pulled out of a conference today where he had been scheduled to speak alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Officials said he cancelled because he was taking leave after adopting a second child, and denied any suggestion that the move was a snub to the Saudi government.

Junior foreign office minister Kim Howells, who spoke instead of Miliband, said the two nations were working together to tackle terrorism. ''This is a home-grown problem for both of us,'' he said.

''Practical co-operation is very important.'' ''20 TO 30 YEARS TO DEFEAT TERRORISM'' The Saudi monarch said in his interview that most countries -- including Britain -- did not view terrorism seriously enough.

''It will take 20 to 30 years to defeat the scourge of terrorism with vigilant effort,'' he said. ''And I strongly urge all countries in the world, including Great Britain, to take the matter of fighting terrorism very, very seriously.'' Vince Cable, acting leader of Britain's third largest party the Liberal Democrats, said he will boycott a banquet for the Saudi king to be held by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

''The human rights record of this government is absolutely appalling,'' he told BBC radio, citing ''systematic discrimination against women, people of other religions, the exercise of systematic corporal punishment, through amputation, the public beheadings'' by the Saudi government.

John McDonnell, a left-wing member of parliament in Brown's Labour Party, said Britons would be ''aghast'' at the visit by ''one of the most prominent anti-democratic and human rights abusing leaders in the world.'' Later, a spokeswoman for Brown's office said Britain had previously voiced concern about human rights in Saudi Arabia.

''Where we have had concerns ... we have made those views clear,'' she said. ''But equally we do have to recognise that there are important developments under way in Saudi Arabia for example the establishment of the national human rights council.'' Last December, then Prime Minister Tony Blair stepped in to halt a Serious Fraud Office investigation into a deal between the defence contractor BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia, citing the risks it posed to British-Saudi relations.

Blair's move sparked sharp criticism from opposition politicians who accused him of cozying up to Saudi Arabia.

REUTERS SKB ND1834

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