UK government to attend major Libyan arms fair

By agency reporter
August 28, 2009

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 2009 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), commented: "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."

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