PM call on Middle East relationship

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Prime Minister David Cameron was criticised for his recent tour of the Middle East

Britain should “look again at its entire relationship” with the Middle East following uprisings in the region, Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Criticised last week for touring the Middle East with a group of arms manufacturers as Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi used British-made defence equipment against his own people, Mr Cameron said it was time to challenge the “outdated notion democracy has no place in the Arab world”.

In a statement to the Commons, he said it was not for Britain to “dictate how each country should meet the aspirations of its people” but the UK “must not remain silent in our belief that freedom and the rule of law are what best guarantee human progress and economic success”.

He said: “Freedom of expression, a free press, freedom of assembly, the right to demonstrate peacefully: these are basic rights. And they are as much the rights of people in Tahrir Square as Trafalgar Square.

“They are not British or western values – but the values of human beings everywhere. So we need to take this opportunity to look again at our entire relationship with this region – at the billions of euros of EU funds, at our trade relationship, at our cultural ties.

“We need to be much clearer and tougher in linking our development assistance to real progress in promoting more open and plural societies.

“And we need to dispense once and for all with the outdated notion that democracy has no place in the Arab world.”

Mr Cameron added that the Middle East and North Africa was “now at the epicentre of momentous events”.

“History is sweeping through this region,” he said.

He also refused to rule out military action against Col Gaddafi, saying that the UK “must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people”.

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