Hundreds of campaigners yesterday prayed and then formed a human chain around the headquarters of DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation), a Government unit that secures business for private arms companies. They encircled DESO's central London offices at 1pm calling for DESO to be shut and labelling the building a "Global Danger Zone". The chain involved about three hundred people, including comedian Mark Thomas and Christian peace campaigner Norman Kember, who survived kidnapping in Iraq. The peaceful demonstration highlighted the role of DESO in using taxpayers' money to benefit arms traders and in marketing weapons to brutal regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Participants travelled from all over Britain to join the chain, which attracted significant support from people living and working locally. The event was followed by a lobby of Parliament. The human chain included people of all faiths and none. Earlier in the day a prayer meeting was held outside DESO's headquarters by CAAT Christian Network, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi and SPEAK, calling for DESO's closure. The campaign to shut DESO is backed by the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party along with leading Labour backbenchers including Clare Short and John McDonnell. It has the support of prominent religious leaders including Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Catholic Bishop[ of Lancaster, Graham Carter, President of the Methodist Church, and Colin Bennetts, Anglican Bishop of Coventry. In all, thirty-five NGOs and political groups have formally endorsed the campaign. Mark Thomas said: "When taxpayers' money is used to subsidise arms deals, we are complicit in those deals. We are here to say 'No! We will not be complicit!'" Anna Jones of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said: "People from all walks of life have today said that DESO must be shut. The British public do not want their taxes funding a marketing agency for private arms dealers. We have sent a message that time is up for the Government's gunrunners." DESO's Strategic Marketing Plan for 2005 was obtained by CAAT under the Freedom of Information Act and made public on 24 September. It listed Iraq and Libya as "key markets" for the first time, along with other regimes with poor human rights records including Colombia and Saudi Arabia. India and Pakistan were both listed as "key markets" despite ongoing tension between them. Source: CAAT
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