Boris Johnson has refused to condemn Donald Trump for his controversial response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The prime minister instead praised the US as a “bastion of peace and freedom”.
Johnson was pressed by SNP MP Kirsty Blackman to address the president’s “horrendous” handling of the anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Trump’s response has included threatening to deploy the army to deal with protesters.
Meanwhile, his administration has said it has “no regrets” over tear gassing demonstrators outside the White House so Trump could take part in a photo opportunity at a church.
Johnson, who once said Trump has “many, many good qualities”, refused to condemn Trump on Wednesday, though unlike the president he said he supports the Black Lives Matter movement.
He told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs): “I renew what I have said many times, it’s important for the House to hear it again. Yes, black lives matter and yes, the death of George Floyd was absolutely appalling.
“As for the qualities of Mr Trump, let me say amongst many other things, he is president of the US which is our most important ally in the world today.”
Johnson’s utterance of Trump’s name was barely audible.
He added: “Whatever people may say about it, whatever those on the left may say about it, the US is a bastion of peace and freedom – and has been for most of my lifetime.”
Johnson was later thanked for his comments by Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, who tweeted: “The Special Relationship is alive and well!”
Largely peaceful anti-racism protests have been sparked by the killing of Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last month.
Since becoming PM in July last year, Johnson has regularly been accused of failing to stand up to Trump’s controversial actions.
During the general election campaign, Johnson is thought to have avoided Trump when the president was in London for the NATO summit – out of fear of the president damaging his electoral prospects.
Meanwhile, addressing the anti-racism protests in the UK following Floyd’s killing, Johnson said at PMQs: “I understand the very strong and legitimate feelings of people in this country about the death of George Floyd, and of course I agree black lives matter.
“I must stress... it is absolutely vital that we keep our streets safe and we back our police.”