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Learning English - Words in the News
15 December, 2006 - Published 11:59 GMT
Saudi deal probe dropped
Military aircraft

Britain's attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, has announced that a fraud investigation into a multi-billion-pound arms deal with Saudi Arabia has been abandoned. According to British press reports, the Saudis had threatened to cancel the deal if the investigation had continued. Roger Hardy reports.

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Few relationships are so highly regarded by successive British governments as that with Saudi Arabia. It's considered a moderate, pro-Western state in a turbulent region, an ally in what President Bush calls the "war on terror" and an important trading partner on which the British economy, and British jobs, depend.

Al Yamamah, which means 'the dove', is quite simply the biggest arms deal Britain has ever signed.

The trouble is that selling arms to this particular ally regularly involves 'commissions' - in plain language, bribes - to well-placed people including members of the Saudi ruling family.

British businessmen and diplomats know this and accept it, arguing that if they didn't get the contracts, they'd go to rivals such as the French.

In making his announcement, Lord Goldsmith pointedly claimed he was acting, not in Britain's commercial or economic interests, but to avoid damage to British security and British foreign policy in the Middle East.

That's unlikely to stop the government's critics from saying it's simply covering up corruption.

Roger Hardy, BBC News.

Listen to the words

highly regarded
seen as very important

successive British governments
one government after another

reasonable, not extreme

troubled, unstable

extra amounts of money paid to people or organisations according to the value of services they have provided

money or gifts given illegally to persuade people to do something

well-placed people
people who have a lot of power

firms they are competing with which want to do better than them

benefits, gains

covering up corruption
hiding illegal or immoral behaviour, such as giving bribes

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