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Britain - Labour attacked over arms sales
THE IRISH TIMES
Wednesday, September 15, 1999
Thursday, September 16, 1999
EAST TIMOR: The British government's "ethical" foreign policy was again under fire last night, as a Royal Navy warship and its force of marines prepared to join the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor. Conservatives accused the government of hypocrisy over its dealings with Indonesia, as Labour MPs reacted angrily to news that a total of £130 million of taxpayers' money was used to underwrite sales to the regime there last year - and that the Trade Secretary, Mr Stephen Byers, had overruled Treasury advice in order to protect the sale of Hawk jets to Indonesia. The Shadow Defence Secretary, Mr Iain Duncan Smith, said criticism of Tory policy on arms sales was one of the winning issues for Labour at the last election: "They said it was wrong and they would end it and they did no such thing."
The Labour MP, Ms Ann Clywd, complained of "a lack of joined-up thinking" in the government's approach to a known human rights abuser. And Mr Martin O'Neill, chairman of the trade and industry select committee, said the government was no different from previous goverments which had been more concerned with the number of jobs depending on arms sales than with "the human cost" of the industry. Arguments used to defend arms sales to Indonesia were not good enough, said Mr O'Neill. "Frankly, in the case of Indonesia, there was always this sense - especially in relation to armaments - that somehow our enemy's enemy is our friend and, therefore, we turn a blind eye," he said. Mr Byers was also reported to have overridden civil servants' concerns and to have authorised financial help to an engineering company, Va Tech Reyrolle Projects, working in Indonesia on building power transmission lines.
From Frank Millar, London Editor
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