7 March 2007
Thousands call for closure of arms marketing unit
Over 10,000 people have called for the closure of DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation), a Government unit which exists to find sales for private arms companies. A petition received today by the Treasury contained signatures from throughout the UK, including prominent names such as economist Samuel Brittan, writer George Monbiot and comedian Mark Thomas.
As the petition was handed in, arms traders and Government officials met in central London for DESO's annual symposium, which faced a peaceful demonstration organised by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR). The demonstration and petition follow months of increasing criticism of DESO over its role in the sale of arms to despotic regimes, including BAE Systems' recent deals with Saudi Arabia.
CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said:
"DESO plays a central role in the arms trade's cycle of destruction and poverty. It takes money from UK taxpayers and contributes nothing to the UK's defence. Thousands of people from all walks of life and political backgrounds have today insisted that DESO must be shut. The outcry is getting louder. Blair and Brown can no longer ignore public opposition to DESO."ENDS
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.
2. The demonstration and petition are organised jointly by CAAT and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR).
3. DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation) is a unit of the Ministry of the Defence dedicated to finding sales opportunities for private arms companies. It has no function in regulating the arms trade. It is funded with about £15million of public money each year and employs approximately 500 civil servants. The head of DESO receives both a civil service salary and "top-up" payment from the arms industry.
4. The petition calling for DESO's closure has been signed by over 10,000 people. Thirty-five NGOs, charities and political parties have called for DESO's closure, including the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Green Party, Respect and SDLP.
5. On 16th October 2006, about 300 people encircled the DESO offices in central London in support of the campaign to shut DESO.
6. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview on this subject.
7. Photographs of today's demonstration and petition hand-in are available on request.
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