Dirty money: Britain, Libya and the arms trade

This is NOT OK

CAAT say:

The UK has sold tear gas, crowd control ammunition and fire arms to Bahrain and Libya in the last year. While UK weapons are used against civilians, a UK government departmentand David Cameron are promoting weapons sales in the Middle East. This is NOT OK.

Can you be more on top of the events than this, a mere several weeks after the revolution began in Libya:

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has said Britain’s arms sales policy is under review following the Libyan regime’s violence against its own people.

Fox said that Muammar Gaddafi was “a liability” and that all pressure possible should be applied to ensure the Libyan leader goes, as David Cameron called on him to do on Sunday.

Carl Packman on William Hague:

First he made the government look foolish by repeating the unsubstantiable claim that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela.

Then amid all the media attention on Cameron’s trip to the Middle East with arms dealers, and the Mirror story that the wife of an ex-Middle East arms dealer, old chum of Jonathan Aitken, had donated £300,000 to the Tories, David Cameron has to get up and apologise for the delays to the Government’s efforts to rescue British nationals stranded in Libya.

James Forsyth for the Mail has today said the “Government has resembled little more than a budget airline”.

EUObserver write:

As dead bodies pile up on the streets of Tripoli and blocked phone lines hamper the EU evacuation effort, the latest EU figures show that EU countries just two years ago granted over €160 million of export licences to Libya for small arms and electronic jamming equipment.

The Union’s latest report on arms exports, out in January and covering 2009, says that EU countries granted €343.7 million worth of Libya licences two years before the massacre. Figures for actual shipments are incomplete.

With the UK’s Associated Press agency reporting on Tuesday (22 February) that the streets of Tripoli “are littered with the bodies of scores of protesters shot dead by security forces,” the EU report notes that Malta in 2009 granted licences and actually shipped €79.7 million of small arms to the regime. Belgium granted €18 million of licences and Bulgaria €3.7 million.

On electronic jamming, Germany led with €43.2 million of permits. The UK granted €20.7 million worth and Italy €1 million.

EU officials on Monday told this website that Libyan jamming of mobile phone, internet and GPS services is hampering attempts to get the 5,000 or so EU citizens still in Libya to safety. The EU’s ambassador in Tunis, who is also responsible for Libya, is trying to co-ordinate evacuations by calling EU embassies in Tripoli on landlines. But many of these are also down.

Amid widespread reports that the Libyan airforce is bombing and shooting opposition activists, Italy led the sale of what the arms industry calls “big ticket items.”

Italy granted €107.7 million of licences for military aircraft, including assault craft, and associated equipment. France granted €17.5 million worth and Portugal €14.5 million. Portugal also granted €4.6 million of permits for drones.

[…] Paul Holtom, an arms control expert with the Swedish NGO Sipri said that Russia is Libya’s main arms supplier. The EU gold rush began after the UN lifted its arms embargo in 2003, with senior British, French and Italian officials jetting in and out of Tripoli in delegations with arms and oil industry executives.

[…] Belgium in 2009 in response to NGO complaints overturned a licence for FN Herstal to supply €11.5 million of small arms – including 367 rifles, 367 handguns, 50 “luxury” pistols and 22,000 grenades – for Gaddafi’s elite army and police units.

The UK in 2008 blocked York Guns from shipping 130,000 Kalashnikovs to Libya because it feared they would be resold to warlords in Sudan.

The same year Romania gave the green light to sell Gaddafi 100,000 of the guns, however. And UK premier David Cameron on his current Middle East tour opted to bring Ian King, the CEO of top British arms firm BAe Systems, as part of his delegation, as well as executives from UK weapons firms Rolls Royce and Thales.

Here is Russia’s role in the trade:

Russia could lose almost $4.0 billion in arms export contracts to Libya after Moscow joined other world powers in slapping an arms embargo on Moamer Kadhafi’s regime, a report said on Sunday.

The Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying that Russia had a swelling order book for contracts from Libya worth $2.0 billion while negotiations had been in progress for deals worth $1.8 billion more.

Here is some information about British arming of the un-democratic government of Bahrain:

Alistair Burt went on to detail some of the licenses granted in recent months.

“In the last nine months we have approved a range of licences for Bahrain. These include two single export licences for 250 tear gas cartridges to the Bahrain Defence Force and National Security Agency that were for trial/evaluation purposes.

“In addition there are a number of open individual export licences that have been approved. One of these includes equipment that can be used for riot control. The approval of these applications were judged to be consistent with the criteria at the time and followed precedents set by previous governments. As with all export licences for Bahrain, these are being urgently reviewed.”

Oddly enough, the defence industry says: “Anarchy in the Middle East benefits no-one”.

More from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade:

CAAT has highlighted some of the UK’s most controversial arms exports to the region. See also CAAT’s summary of UK arms exports and promotion. Approved UK arms export licences are taken from government figures for Strategic Export Controls. CAAT has compiled a calendar. of UKTI DSO arms promotion activity and publishes the results of Freedom of Information requests related to UK arms promotion.

UK trade organisation Aerospace|Defence|Security says in a press release that it will be attending IDEX to “continue its promotion of the UK defence and security industry’s interests in the UAE and Middle East.” CAAT has more information on IDEX.

In November 2010 more than half of the exhibitors at theLibyan Defence & Security Exhibition (LibDex), billed as an opportunity for international manufacturers to network with “all bodies involved in the defence and security industry in Libya and North Africa”, were UK companies.

UK Trade and Investment has approximately 130 staff to support 34 industry sectors. In 2008, it opened the Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) to promote arms exports. UKTI now employs 160 civil servants to sell arms. Peter Luff, Defence Equipment Minister, has said: “There will be a very, very, very heavy ministerial commitment to (arms sales). There is a sense that in the past we were rather embarrassed about exporting defence products. There is no such embarrassment in this Government.”Foreign Secretary William Hague has also been upfront about his involvement in promoting BAE products to the rest of the world.

UKTI DSO has listed Bahrain as a key market for UK arms exports. It invited Bahrain to attend UK arms fairs, the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) in 2009. UKTI DSO supported the Bahrain International Airshow 2010, where it organised an outdoor event. It has used UK armed forces have been used in support of sales efforts, demonstrating arms to the Royal Bahrain Artillery. Libya is a UKTI DSO priority market country, and the UK has made ‘high level political interventions’ in support of arms sales to Libya. Libya was also invited to attend the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and DSEi in 2009. UKTI DSO has exhibited at Libyan arms fairs including LibDex.

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