Brown Seeks Saudi Help

RIYADH: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday called on Saudi Arabia and other GCC states to help stabilize the world economy by lending financial support. Brown made the call following talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah here last night.

“King Abdullah and Brown discussed a range of issues including the Middle East peace process, the global economy and many other subjects of bilateral interest,” a British Embassy spokesman told Arab News.

Brown arrived here with 27 leading British businessmen on the first leg of a four-day Gulf tour, which will also take him to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

On arrival at King Khaled International Airport, Brown was received by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the UK and Ireland Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf, Minister of Transport Jabara Al-Seraisry and British Ambassador William Patey.

The talks between King Abdullah and Brown focused mainly on the global financial crisis with special reference to some important regional and international issues of mutual concern, diplomatic sources said. They added that Brown would address Saudi businessmen today at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where he would reiterate the British position on the financial crisis. Referring to the urgent need to join hands to stabilize the global financial system, the British prime minister called on countries with large resources, such as the Gulf states and China, to contribute to an international fund aimed at helping smaller economies. “All nations and institutions have got their roles to play in solving this world downturn and I think the Gulf states would want to play their part also,” said a diplomatic source.

Brown’s plan calls for greater coordination of monetary and fiscal policy, improving lending between banks and helping struggling countries with a crisis fund. He also wants the International Monetary Fund’s $250 billion bailout fund for countries hit by the financial crisis. In a statement before leaving London, Brown was quoted as saying that “high fuel prices hit everyone’s food, energy and transport bills. The price at the petrol pump is coming down and it should come down faster.”

A statement released by the British Embassy in Riyadh yesterday said: “Saudi Arabia is a key strategic partner for the UK and this visit will take forward the energy dialogue we began in Jeddah in June and look ahead to the meeting of energy ministers in London in December this year.”

“Saudi Arabia will play a leading role at the meeting of G20 in Washington on Nov. 15 and this is an opportunity to build on the growing consensus on action required to stabilize and rebuild the global economic system. Brown’s visit is also an opportunity to build on the strong commercial, cultural and educational links between our two countries,” it added.

Prominent business figures, who arrived in Riyadh as part of Brown’s delegation, include Ian Tyler, chief executive of Balfour Beatty; Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive officer; Sir John Rose, chief executive of Rolls-Royce; Dick Oliver, chairman of BAE Systems; and Richard Lambert, director general of CBI.

Mandelson said yesterday that Britain is open to investment from sovereign wealth funds. A day after Barclays PLC tapped Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds of $11.8 billion to strengthen its balance sheet rather than turning to the British government for help, Mandelson said he believed London could provide a base for the operation of Gulf state funds in Europe.

“We haven’t had a problem with sovereign wealth funds in the past, so I don’t see why it should be a problem in the future,” Mandelson told reporters traveling with Brown. “I hope they are going to go on acting as they have,” he added.

Add Comment