British arms exports to Israel continue unabated


London : British arms sales to the Zionist regime continued unabated last year despite Israel's month-long reinvasion of Lebanon, according to the latest annual report on strategic export control published by the Foreign Office.

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The report revealed that 112 Standard Individual Export Licences, (SIELs) were issued to British companies applying to sell military equipment to Israel in 2006 and that a further 17 Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) were approved or amended.

No value was listed for the licences but the number is almost as high as the 120 SIELs approved for export to Israel in 2005, which was worth Pnds 23.5 million (Dlrs 43 m).

According to Saferworld, which works to prevent armed violence, exports include components for combat aircraft, electronic warfare equipment, utility helicopters, naval light guns, military head-up displays, unmanned vehicles and anti-armour missiles.

The latest annual report separately listed that the value of military equipment delivered to Israel last year was Pnds 3.57 m, according to Revenue and Customs statistics. There was also two unspecified items under the category of weapons and small arms.

Saferworld expressed concern over the government's continued authorisation of the export of military equipment to all countries renowned for their violation of human rights.

"It's hard to see how this squares with the messages from the new Foreign Secretary that the UK should be a 'force for good' and that there needs to be better coordination across the FCO and other departments." said Saferworld team leader Roy Isbister.

Last year, Public Interest Lawyers (Pil) in cooperation with the Palestinian rights group, al-Haq, launched a legal challenge the Britain's sale of arms to Israel after the government failed to show that they are not used against the Palestinians.

The court case comes after the UK ministers were asked by a leading parliamentary committee to explain its policy of selling arms to Israel that breaches guidelines on not exporting military equipment for internal repression or external aggression.

The all-party Quadripartite Committee said it was challenging the government to show how British diplomats carry out their work in observing how UK weapons and components are being used by Israeli forces.

Following its month-long destruction of Lebanon in which over 1,200 civilians were killed last summer, Britain's third largest political party, the Liberal Democrats urged the government to review its arms sales to Israel.

In a letter to former prime minister Tony Blair, Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said the UK government "must now comply with its own arms export rules and institute an immediate suspension of all UK arms exports to Israel."