01 December, 2006

al Yamamah: Saudi ultimatum

The Daily Telegraph leads today's front page with the news that Saudi Arabia has issued an ultimatum to the British government: you have 10 days to stop the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into the al Yamamah contract or the deal is off. Instead Saudi Arabia will turn to France.

The Saudis are understood to have already opened negotiations with the French about buying 36 rival Rafale jets.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that President Jacques Chirac has been to Saudi Arabia twice in recent months to offer full French co-operation on such a deal.

There has since been a series of meetings in Paris. Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi national security council secretary general, visited the French president on Wednesday of last week.

Last Monday, an envoy from the Saudi government is understood to have gone to Paris to confirm details of a potential new deal.
At risk are at least 50,000 jobs and continuing access to Saudi intelligence on terrorism. None of which appears to worry Lord Goldsmith who, as Attorney General, has powers to end the SFO inquiry in the national interest.

Previously on CS, with a link to the relevant legislation: Al Yamamah: will Blair act?

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