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'Difficult' talks needed with Saudis after London attack - Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party delivers a speech in Carlisle, England, Britain, June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain needs to have “difficult conversations” with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states about the funding of Islamist extremism, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday, resuming his election campaign after a deadly attack in London.

The Labour party leader, who is hoping to win Thursday’s national election, said the vote should go ahead to show democracy would not be halted by the London Bridge attack that left seven dead and 48 injured.

Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May called for a stronger response to Islamist extremism after three knife-wielding assailants drove a hired van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby.

Corbyn said Britain’s democratic values must be maintained.

“We must resist Islamophobia and division and turn out on 8 June united in our determination to show our democracy is strong,” Corbyn said in the text of a speech due to be delivered in Carlisle, north England.

“And, yes, we do need to have some difficult conversations starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fuelled extremist ideology.”

He attacked May for cutting police numbers during her tenure as interior minister and repeated his pledge to recruit 10,000 new police officers, including armed officers.

Opinion polls have shown Corbyn’s Labour catching up fast with May’s Conservative Party, putting into doubt her gamble that a snap election would boost her majority.

Last month U.S. President Donald Trump urged Arab and Islamic leaders to unite and do their share to defeat Islamist extremists, making an impassioned plea to “drive out” terrorists, while toning down his own harsh rhetoric about Muslims.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William James