UK government urged to stop 'irresponsible' arms exports

While the British Government has praised the non-violent democracy protests in the Middle East and North Africa - behind the scenes they have approved massive sales of tear gas, crowd control ammunition and sniper rifles to Bahrain and Libya, as well as a wide range of other military equipment to authoritarian regimes in the region.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) today called on the Government and UK companies to withdraw from a controversial Middle East arms fair which starts this weekend and for fundamental reform to the UK's 'irresponsible' arms export policy.

CAAT, whose members include many Church and other faith groups,  calls for an immediate arms embargo to the region, for a thorough review of why such exports were ever licensed in the first place and for fundamental reform to the UK's irresponsible arms export policy.

IT says: "The UK must cancel its participation in the IDEX arms fair which starts this weekend."

The Government's arms promotion unit, UK Trade & Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) will be exhibiting at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), the largest defence and security event in the Middle East and North African region. The UK arms industry body Aerospace|Defence|Security (A|D|S) claims that 10% of exhibitors will be from the UK and says "our sizable presence at IDEX 2011 shows that we mean business."  

IDEX takes place from Sunday 20 - Thursday 24 February, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Sarah Waldron, Campaigns Coordinator at CAAT, said:  "It is astounding that the government is still insisting it has a responsible arms export policy while, in the same breath, admitting that it was happy to supply authoritarian regimes with the means to crush dissent.

Far from seeking to restrain arms sales, the UK government actively promotes them. While this policy stands there is no prospect of meaningful arms control.

The UK must cancel its participation in the IDEX arms fair this weekend, end its irresponsible arms exports and stop using taxpayers' money to promote arms sales. "

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