|Subject: The Examiner on Brit Weapons
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 10:23:42 +0000
From: "East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Organization: ETISC
The Examiner Sept 1st 1999
Pressure to stop UK arms sales to Indonesia
THE BRITISH government came under increasing pressure last night to halt arms exports to Indonesia and cancel an invitation to attend Britain's biggest arms fair. Labour backbenchers and Liberal Democrats joined forces to call on the government to change its mind after it defended the invitation, saying it did not necessarily mean further export licences would be granted. Details of the move emerged the day after Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said that Hawk jets, made by British Aerospace, had been used over the troubled island of East Timor, in breach of Indonesia's export licence. Donald Anderson, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee and fellow Labour MP Ann Clwyd, a veteran campaigner against arms exports, both said there should be no more arms sales to Indonesia for the moment. Speaking from East Timor, where the Labour parliamentary human rights group has been observing the conduct of Monday's independence referendum, Ms Clwyd said the truth was that it was not possible for Britain to stop arms it exported being used for repression or aggression. And she said that arms sales to the Far Eastern nation - which has been going through an economic downturn - have been underwritten by the British taxpayer to the tune of more than £800 million. ''We should not be footing the bill for repression even as the World Bank and the IMF have had to bail them out,'' she said. Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said in a letter to Mr Cook that it was wholly unjustified and inappropriate to invite the Indonesian military to an arms fair after it had admitted breaking the terms of a previous contract. He said he had little faith in the Indonesian government's assurances that such a breach would not happen again and said the contract to supply more Hawks should be revoked as part of an wholesale review of government policy on Indonesia. Mr Campbell added there was now an overwhelming case for allowing MPs to scrutinise all future arms exports via a special select committee, after the arms to Iraq and Sierra Leone affairs, and the troubles in East Timor. Earlier, Defence Procurement Minister, Baroness Symons sought to play down the significance of inviting Indonesia to attend the Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition, due to be held next month. She said the invitation was a recognition of the country's right to defend itself, as guaranteed by the United Nations Charter. And she repeated Mr Cook's insistence that the Indonesian regime had given absolutely specific assurances that Hawk jets, made by British Aerospace, would not be used again over East Timor. ''The assurances we have had are sufficient to say you have the right under the UN Charter ... to come and look at the equipment that you may be able to get for that self defence and we have the right to decide whether or not to grant you the licence,'' she said. Baroness Symons said the licence under which the Hawks were sold was granted by the previous Conservative government headed by John Major. She also said that Indonesia was now a country in transition since it held democratic elections earlier in the year following the deposition of former dictator President Suharto.
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