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FACTDROP: Bahrain and Saudi offered slots at arms fair


Bahrain and Saudi offered slots at arms fair

Πηγή: FT
By John O’Doherty
12  Sept. 2011

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have both been invited to the UK’s largest arms fair this week, in spite of the two countries’ roles in suppressing pro-democracy movements earlier this year.

The Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition, which starts on Tuesday, is held every two years at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands.

UK Trade and Industry, which promotes British companies abroad, has issued invitations to the two countries, along with Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

However, China, which was invited to DSEi in 2009 in spite of a Europe-wide arms embargo, has not been invited this year.

Libya – among the 2009 invitees when under the rule of Muammer Gaddafi – has not been invited.

The exhibition will feature more than 1,300 exhibitors, almost half of which are UK-based.

They include BAE Systems, the maker of battleships and the Eurofighter Typhoon; AgustaWestland, the Somerset-based helicopter division of Finmeccanica; and Chemring, a maker of decoy flares used by naval ships and military aircraft.

“We have an industry that as a nation we should be proud of,” said Rees Ward, chief executive of ADS, the defence and security trade group.

”Though this is a trade show on ‘home turf’, the sheer numbers of UK exhibitors and their products show that our industry is eager to take advantage of the opportunities that an international trade show will bring.”

ADS estimates that the defence sector employs 110,000 people in the UK directly, creating more than £22bn in annual sales last year, £9.5bn of which were exports.

This year Saudi Arabia used Tactica armoured vehicles made by BAE to send its National Guard into Bahrain to suppress pro-democracy protests.

“Our main concern is the fact that we still have on this list Middle East dictatorships who have used arms against their own people,” said Kaye Stearman of Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

“We’re particularly concerned about Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, because it seems the Arab Spring has brought out the true face of these countries and showed that the weapons are being used for internal repression.

“We think its completely wrong that the government should be selling arms to these very repressive, undemocratic and abusive regimes.”

Although invitations to DSEi are made by UKTI, the decision on which country to invite is made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which was not available for comment on Monday morning.

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