28 August 2009
"High-level political interventions" help UK sell arms to Libya
The UK is booked to attend a major arms fair in Libya, despite the controversy around the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. United Kingdom Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) will be exhibiting at the Libyan Aviation Exhibition (LAVEX) in October. Their attendance was confirmed to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in response to a Freedom of Information request.
LAVEX is scheduled for 5-8 October and will be held at Mitiga Airport in Tripoli. LAVEX is hosted by an organising committee of the Libyan Airforce, Libyan Civil Aviation Authority and Airport Transportation Workers Union and is organised by WAHAexpo, seemingly a state-owned company. Organisers claim that LAVEX 2009 will have 115 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors over the three days. This contrasts with the 65 exhibitors from 22 countries who were present at LAVEX 2007.
UKTI DSO invites official country delegation to attend the London-based Defence Equipment & Systems International (DSEi), one of the world's largest arms fairs, which it co-organises with Clarion Events. Libya is one of 53 countries, plus the UN, which UKTI DSO has invited to attend this year's DSEi, scheduled for 8-11 September.
Political intervention to support the arms industry is seen part of DSO's mandate. In a speech on 21 May 2009, Richard Paniguian, Head of UKTI DSO, said: "There have been high-level political interventions - often behind the scenes - in places like Libya, Oman, India and Algeria. The key here is consistent support over time, delivered at key points in a campaign. You'd expect us to deliver Whitehall support, and we are doing that."
Kaye Stearman, spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), says:
We have heard a lot about the opportunities for British trade in Libya in the past few days, but little about the way that arms companies are keen to exploit the situation. Yet Libya has a dreadful record on intervention in regional conflicts and human rights abuse against its own citizens and foreigners. Surely the least we should demand is to stop UK arms companies from trading with this rich and dangerous country.
For further comment please contact CAAT's Press Co-ordinator on 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232 or email press(at)caat·org·uk.
For a listing of CAAT events before and during DSEI see: Join us
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade together with progressive demilitarisation within arms producing countries. Around 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters' donations and CAAT is strictly nonviolent in all its work.
2. UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) is the UK government body that provides support for arms companies in their export-related activities. This includes promoting weapons sales worldwide, including to countries in conflict and regimes with a documented record of human rights abuse. UKTI DSO was established in April 2008, having replaced some functions of the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO). DESO was based in the Ministry of Defence and had an outside Director, chosen by the arms industry with a salary topped up by the Defence Manufacturers Association.
3. Libya was placed under a European Union arms embargo in 1986 which was lifted in October 2004. In June 2005 DESO held a seminar on Libya as an emerging market; according to Defence Manufacturers Association News in July 2005, Libya was seen as "a relatively sophisticated customer with a political will to procure equipment from the UK". DESO opened an office in Tripoli in January 2006. In June 2006 the UK and Libya signed a "Joint Letter of Peace and Security" in which, among other things, the UK pledged to aid Libya in "strengthening its defence capacities". In May 2007 the UK agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Libya, "An accord on a Defence Cooperation and Defence Industrial Partnership" - see UK-Libya communique . CAAT made a Freedom of Information request for the text but was refused. In August 2007 MBDA (co-owned by BAE Systems, EADS and by Finmeccanica) finalised a contract to sell Milan anti-tank missiles to Libya.
4.UK arms sales to Libya have increased rapidly within a few years. In 2008 the UK approved licences amounting to £12 million for arms equipment and components to Libya, compared to less than £5 million in 2007. Licences with a value of over £9 million were approved in the first quarter of 2009.
5. On 24 August, in the light of the controversy that followed the al-Megrahi decision, Buckingham Palace confirmed that Prince Andrew, who serves as Special Ambassador for International Trade and Investment, would not visit Libya in September 2009 as originally planned. Prince Andrew had already made two official visits to Libya.
6. UKTI DSO is co-organiser of Defence Systems & Equipment (DSEi), one of the world's largest arms fairs, scheduled to be held at London's ExCel centre from 8-11 September 2009. Of the 53 countries, plus the United Nations (UN), who have been invited by UKTI DSO to attend DSEi 2009, at least 15 have serious conflict and human rights concerns or urgent development needs. They are: Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam. (see CAAT press release,16 July 2009: Conflict and human rights abuse no bar to being invited to London arms fair
7. The UK attended The first LAXEX in 2007. Exhibitors at LAVEX 2007 included Agusta Westland, Alenia Aermacchi, Boeing, Thales. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and MBDA (jointly owned by BAE Systems, Thales and Finmeccanica).
8. LAVEX is only one of several arms fairs patronised by UKTI DSO. Earlier in 2009, it attended arms fairs in Australia (Avalon, 10-15 March), Brazil (LAAD, 14-17 March), Turkey (IDEF, 27-20 April), Singapore (IMDEX Asia, 12-14 May), France (Paris Air Show, 15-21 June) and BRIDEX (Brunei, 12-15 August). In the coming months it will attend arms fairs in the US (AUSA, 5-7 October), France (Milipol, 17-20 November), Dubai (Dubai Air Show, 15-19 November) and Malaysia (LIMA Air/Naval Show, 1-5 December).
9. The speech by Richard Paniguian, "The new UKTI DSO" was delivered at the UKTI DSO Symposium 2009, "Exporting in a challenging global environment", which was also addressed by Lord Mandelson, then Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), at the London's Park Plaza Riverbank hotel. The symposium was sponsored by BAE Systems, EADS, General Dynamics, HESCo Bastion, Rolls-Royce, Smith Detection and Thales, and the accompanying reception by Finmeccanica.