Subject: Guardian: Jakarta gets its three Hawk jets
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 08:53:43 -0400

The Guardian Monday September 20, 1999

Arms trade

Jakarta gets its three Hawk jets

Fighters will be delivered in spite of British embargo

Michael White, Political Editor

The government came under renewed criticism for the sale of Hawk fighter jets to Indonesia last night as the ministry of defence confirmed that three aircraft now stranded in Bangkok will be delivered, despite the crisis in East Timor.

The revelation that British weapons are still reaching the Jakarta regime angered some Labour MPs and prompted the Liberal Democrats to demand government intervention to block final delivery.

"The Indonesians have broken the conditions upon which these aircraft were to be supplied," said Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman. "There is not legal or moral obligation for Britain to continue to fulfil the contract."

Though both the MoD and the department of trade and industry are involved in the elaborate export licensing procedures for Britain's huge arms industry, such talk renews the pressure on Robin Cook, the foreign secretary.

Despite his high-profile ethical diplomacy stance, he had not won many Whitehall battles over arms sales until the recent brutality in East Timor forced a government u-turn.

Contrary to reports, Mr Cook did not intervene personally to stop the three British Aerospace Hawk fighters - ostensibly bought for training purposes - being flown on from Bangkok. Their final delivery was apparently delayed by pilot illness.

The licence on which BAe is selling the Hawks was suspended last week. That means a further six jets will not be delivered. But Whitehall officials suggest that the three already en route are now legally the property of the Indonesian government since they have left British territory.

Mr Campbell argues that, even now, ministers can stop the delivery if the political will exists, because governments retain control over weapons sales by Crown prerogative. Ministers insist that this is not the case, but it will add to the unease at the Labour party conference in Bournemouth later this month.

Britain has consistently argued that the Hawks were sold to Indonesia on condition that they were not used for internal repression. But the foreign office recently demanded an explanation from Jakarta about reports that Hawks had been spotted flying over East Timor.

The trade secretary, Stephen Byers, was criticised by MPs last week after it emerged that the Hawk sales had been subsidised by the export credit guarantee department.

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