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Britain doubles arms sold to Israel: annual report of weapons exports lists destinations from Channel Islands to Pakistan

20 July 2002

The government approved a sharp increase in arms sales to Israel last year, despite its military activities in the occupied territories, according to the annual report on weapons exports published yesterday.

Britain also approved large increases to Pakistan, involved in a bitter dispute with India over Kashmir, and to countries with poor human rights records, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

Exports cleared for Israel almost doubled, from 12.5m to 22.5m: components for combat aircraft, helicopters and bombs, components for anti-tank missiles and military aircraft engines, and large calibre ammunition. However, the figures show a large number of export licences to Israel were blocked or revoked.

Sales approved for Pakistan rose from 6m to 14m, to Turkey from 34m to 179m, to Saudi Arabia from 13m to more than 20.5m, and to Indonesia from 2m to 15.5m. The value of exports to India increased from 14m to 24m.

Some 88 Challenger 1 battle tanks were delivered last year to Jordan, a country in the front line in any ground invasion of Iraq by US and British forces. In addition, the government approved 55.5m worth of arms exports to Jordan, compared with 12m the previous year.

The figures also show that large numbers of weapons were sold to Hong Kong and the Bahamas, suspected of diverting arms to other destinations. Items cleared for the Channel Islands included parts for combat helicopters, armoured fighting vehicles, and submachine guns; the report does not say where they would end up.

The government also approved the sale of more than 6,000 assault rifles to Nepal whose government faces civil insurgency by Maoists.

The independent thinktank Saferworld yesterday pointed to other controversial sales approved by the government: armoured vehicles to Angola, components of body armour to China, and body armour and military vehicles to Eritrea. All three were under arms embargos at certain times throughout the year.

Sale of anti-riot shields to El Salvador and body armour to Guatemala also appeared to conflict with the government's guidelines, which state that sales would not be approved if there was a "clear risk" they might be used for internal repression.

Sales approved for Tanzania, where the government sold a controversial and expensive military air traffic control system, rose from less than 250,000 to 19.5m.

Campaigners against the weapons trade yesterday welcomed the government's report and its relative transparency, but said more information should be given.

"The series of weapons sales that continued to be granted to countries of concern illustrate how the EU code of conduct is not being rigorously implemented," said Andrew McLean of Saferworld. "We urge the government to accept the key recommendation by MPs for the introduction of a system of prior parliamentary scrutiny of arms export licences - MPs must be able to have a say in this vital issue."

Richard Bingley, of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: "Shipping arms to 130 countries may be good for British companies financially, but its a nightmare for the rest of us ethically, as we try to create an image of being a force for good in the world."

Richard Norton-Taylor
Published in the Guardian © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

Arms trade and military aid     Israel / Palestine index


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