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Posted by AssyrianVoices4Peace from ( on Sunday, October 13, 2002 at 0:01AM :

Outrage as Iraq views UK arms

Peace campaigners angered as Saddam's top brass 'rub shoulders' with British firms at weapons bazaar

Jason Burke, chief reporter
Sunday October 13, 2002
The Observer

A British Minister will lead a major sales drive by UK weapons and military technology firms at an exhibition attended by high-ranking Iraqi military officials this week.
The news has sparked outrage among arms control campaigners and groups opposed to military action against Iraq. 'It is absurd that we are gearing up to fight a war against these people and simultaneously rubbing shoulders with them at an arms bazaar,' said Martin Hogbin of the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Around a dozen British firms will be displaying equipment such as tanks, thermal imaging night sights and state-of-the-art air defence missiles at the exhibition in Amman, Jordan. Machine tools that could be used to produce weapons will also be on show. The government-run Defence Export Services Organisation will also have a stall.

Promotional material for the Sofex military fair boasts that Saddam Hussein is sending an official delegation. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, the Iraqi Defence Minister, attended the last Sofex. Sudan, Syria, Libya and Iran - all listed as sponsors of terrorism by the US State Department - are also expected to attend.

'It's an appalling example of double standards. Where there is a buck to be made, we're there,' said Andrew Bergen, spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition, which campaigns against military action against Iraq.

In the Eighties the UK and US supplied Iraq with millions of pounds' worth of military equipment. Baghdad used British companies to procure 'dual-use' machine tools to make ammunition. Even though the UK had imposed an embargo on 'lethal equipment', the Conservative Government let the sales proceed.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed last week that Lord Bach, the Defence Procurement Minister, would be attending the fair. 'Sofex allows the UK defence industry to demonstrate its product range to a number of potential overseas customers very effectively,' said an MoD spokesman.

There is no suggestion that the British firms are doing anything wrong. 'We exhibit there. The Government decides what we can sell to whom,' said a spokesman for the American military aviation giant Lockheed Martin, whose British arm is attending the fair. Lockheed Martin makes the Longbow 'fire-and-forget' and the Hellfire 2 anti-tank missiles. Both would be expected to play a key role in any attack on Iraq.

Some senior industry figures, however, have expressed surprise at the British presence. 'Are we there to show the Iraqis what we are about to drop on them?' one asked. Exhibition organisers list Raytheon, the American company which makes the long-range Cruise missiles that experts predict would spearhead any US bombardment of Iraq, among companies at the fair. Vickers, the UK arms company which makes the Challenger, the Army's main battle tank, will also be exhibiting.

Sales by British firms are carefully vetted, but other nations are less rigorous. The Russian state arms export corporation, Rosoboronexport, which will be at Sofex, provided Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe with 21,000 AK-47s and eight attack helicopters.

A Romanian firm which offered banned anti-personnel mines for sale at an arms fair in the UK three years ago, will exhibit, as well as Vazovski, a Bulgarian company, which makes grenade launchers, missile and anti-aircraft systems. Vazovski small arms were shipped to Unita rebels with false 'end-user' certificates in the late Nineties.

Britain has always had a tradition of military co-operation with Jordan and the strong representation of UK companies at the fair is being seen as an expression of support for the government of King Abdullah. The Jordanian economy benefits hugely from trade with Iraq. Any military operations will have a massive impact in the kingdom.

The Middle East has long been a good market for British weapons firms. According to recent Foreign Office figures, the UK licensed arms exports worth 1.4 billion to the Middle East and North Africa between January 1999 and December 2001.

-- AssyrianVoices4Peace
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