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  1. ITV Report

Prime Minister defends Gulf defence deals as 'legitimate and right'

Video report by International Correspondent John Irvine.

The Prime Minister has batted away criticism of his promotion of arms deals in the Gulf saying that such deals are "legitimate and right".

He began a three-day trade and diplomacy tour of the region this morning when he touched down at the British Al Minhad airbase in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is looking to replace its ageing fleet of fighter jets and has expressed interest in buying 60 Typhoon fighter jets from British defence firm BAE Systems.

According to the Foreign Office, Saudi Arabia and Oman have also expressed interest in buying Typhoons in deals that would be worth more than £6 billion in total.

Amnesty International warned that Britain must exact "watertight guarantees" that such weapons will not be used to violate human rights.

The organisation's head of policy in the UK, Allan Hogarth, said:

Saudi Arabia has been the recipient of record-breaking arms deals involving the UK, yet these have been highly secretive and there’s been little or no follow-up over how the weaponry was used ...

In the past a large Saudi chequebook has apparently meant it could purchase weapons as well as silence over its own dreadful human rights record.

It’s time for David Cameron to end this deeply disturbing trade-off.

– Allan Hogarth, Head of Policy and Government Affairs, Amnesty International UK
Prime Minister David Cameron meets RAF personnel based at the Al Minhad airbase in Dubai Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Asked to respond to such concerns, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said that Britain has "some of the toughest rules around" on defence exports.

He added that human rights issues are "consistently" raised with other countries.

Prime Minister David Cameron has breakfast with RAF personnel based at the Al Minhad airbase in Dubai Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

After flying into Al Minhad airbase in Dubai, the Prime Minister shared a hearty fried breakfast with British troops. He was heard commenting that the breakfast was "just what I needed".

Mr Cameron also met British business leaders in the country for a construction trade event at the Dubai World Trade Centre as part of efforts to secure a share of lucrative investment on offer in the oil-rich states.

He took a ride on the city's new Metro system which British engineering firms helped to build.

Prime Minister David Cameron takes the Dubai Metro to the World Trade Centre with His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Although no journalists were invited to join the tour, the Prime Minister was not spared tough questions by a group of students at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

During a Q&A session, one student asked how he could justify "putting pressure" on the UEA for its human rights record while proclaiming that it shared a close relationship with the UK.

Mr Cameron replied that "nothing is off limits in the relationship we have" and that human rights would be part of their discussions.

David Cameron chats to students at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

He was also asked whether he supported the Arab Spring - a movement that has caused tensions in some Gulf states.

Mr Cameron declared himself "a supporter of the Arab Spring" and said that he wanted to encourage the "building blocks of democracy" such as rule of law, women's rights and a free press.

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