Protesters jeer at Saudi king on visit to Britain

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LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) Protesters calling for the reopening of a corruption inquiry into a multi-billion dollar arms deal jeered at Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah as Britain rolled out the red carpet to greet him today.

Scores of protesters shouted ''murderers'', ''torturers'', and ''shame on you'' at Abdullah as he passed by in a gilded horse-drawn coach on the second day of a visit that has attracted widespread criticism of the Saudi human rights record.

Abdullah reviewed a military guard of honour at a colourful welcoming ceremony today before joining Britain's Queen Elizabeth for a state carriage procession to Buckingham Palace, watched by crowds of tourists.

Protesters said hundreds of people took part in the demonstration but police put the number at 40 to 50.

Protester Ian Pocock, 30, held a sign saying ''Put human rights before BAE profits'' and told Reuters he wanted the government to reopen a fraud investigation into a BAE Systems arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which it closed in December 2006.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was criticised after he said that pursuing the case would have harmed national security.

BAE has denied making any wrongful payments in its dealings with Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah, ruler of the world's largest oil exporter, is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown later this week.

''Our government, and Mr Brown in particular have a lot to say about (human rights in) Burma and Zimbabwe but very little to say on countries such as Saudi Arabia,'' Pocock said.

A Foreign Office official said yesterday that Britain talked regularly to Saudi Arabia about human rights but added: ''There are no specific human rights issues that we expect to dominate the next two days.'' Comedian Mark Thomas, 44, who helped the group Campaign Against Arms Trade organise the protest, said: ''It's really important to show opposition to this disgusting hypocritical state of affairs where governments, rules of law, human affairs and democracy are cast aside to worship a barrel of oil.'' Reuters RJ GC2354

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