Thursday, July 21, 2011

UK MPs attack govt. arms sales policy

Source: Press TV

Senior British MPs have condemned the country's coalition government for selling crowd control weapons to the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa.

UK lawmakers challenged the government over its agreement to sell a variety of arms, including sniper rifles and machine guns to Mideast and North African countries where the weapons are used in attacking anti-regime protesters, despite official guidelines blocking the arms exports to the countries where they could be used for internal repression.

Earlier this year, the Commons arms export controls committees asked for an urgent review of weapons exports to the "authoritarian regimes worldwide,” especially to Hosni Mubarak's and Muammar Gaddafi's regimes in Egypt and Libya, also to Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Observers have revealed that the military trucks used by the Bahraini forces to repress popular anti-government protests were British vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted that the government had conducted a review. “It concluded that there was no evidence of any misuse of controlled military goods exported from the United Kingdom," he said.

"Consultations with our overseas posts revealed no evidence that any of the offensive naval, air or land-based military platforms used by governments in North Africa or the Middle East against their own populations during the Arab spring, were supplied from the United Kingdom,” Hague insisted.

Meanwhile, Sir John Stanley, a former Conservative defense minister and chairman of the arms controls committees, criticized the review, saying he was not surprised by the result of the review.

"Given that there has been, understandably, an almost total absence of official observers in close proximity to the violent internal repression that has been taking place, and given also the fact that the UK government approved arms exports including machine guns, sniper rifles, combat shot-guns and ammunition were not emblazoned with Union Jacks, it is hardly surprising that the [Foreign Office] could safely conclude 'there was no evidence of any misuse of controlled military goods exported from the United Kingdom',” Stanley said in a statement.

He added the government's decision to revoke 157 arms export licenses to the crisis-hit Arab countries was the most obvious evidence of “the scale of the misjudgment of the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in north Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression, a misjudgment by both the present government and its predecessor.”

Stanly urged Hague to provide more information about the government's arms export policy, raising questions why the government had not “revoked arms and arms-related exports to Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as to Libya, Egypt, and Bahrain.”

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