|Subject: RT: British MPs Criticize Government On
Date: Sat, 07 Aug 1999 09:59:53 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thursday August 5 8:01 AM ET
British MPs Criticize Government On Arms Sales
By Dominic Evans
LONDON (Reuters) - A British parliamentary committee has criticized the government for granting arms-related export licenses to Indonesia and Eritrea, saying it had brushed aside concern over human rights and economic development.
The International Development Committee, in a report on conflict prevention released late Wednesday, said control over arms exports was a litmus test of the British government's declared ``ethical foreign policy.''
It said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which approved two licenses each for sales to the two countries despite concerns expressed by development officials, had not met those ethical standards.
``It is clear that the DTI has yet to take on board effectively the human rights and conflict concerns which are at the heart of development policy,'' the report said.
DTI officials declined to comment on the specific exports to Indonesia -- accused by human rights groups of decades of repression in occupied East Timor -- and Eritrea, an impoverished nation at war until last month with neighboring Ethiopia.
But the officials said licenses for military or dual-use exports were not granted if the equipment could be used for ''internal repression or external aggression.'' If another ministry objected, the export could be blocked.
The report said Britain, one of the world's biggest arms exporters, and other industrialized nations should coordinate more closely to stem the flow of weapons to poorer countries.
``The lack of proportion between the expenditure of developing countries on arms and their expenditure on social sectors is a scandal, and one in which many developed arms-exporting countries are implicated,'' it said.
It quoted an academic report that said Britain's Defense Export Services Organization (DESO) had offices in Indonesia with more staff and funds than the whole Foreign Office arms control research unit.
British arms exports to Indonesia have been condemned by human rights groups who say they help the Jakarta government's occupation of East Timor. British firms deny the charges.
``We recommend that the government state in their response how the activities of DESO are compatible with state policy on conflict prevention and arms control,'' the report said.
It also recommended the government introduce a register of arms brokers in Britain and prevent them brokering the sale of arms to countries to which the government would refuse licenses.
The wideranging report called on the government to outlaw bribing of foreign public officials by British firms and to set an example in the campaign against child soldiers by ending the deployment of soldiers in the British army under 18 years of age.