UK arms dealers openly plan sales to Middle East despots

By staff writers
31 Aug 2011

Representatives of the arms industry and UK government are to speak at a seminar that openly extols the further potential of selling arms to repressive regimes in the Middle East.

Scheduled for Thursday 8 September, the event is entitled Middle East: A vast market for UK defence and security companies. It is run by the London Chamber of Commerce (LCC).

It will feature speakers from the UK government's Defence and Security Organisation, which exists to promote British arms sales. It is a unit of UK Trade and Investment, part of Vince Cable's Department for Business. Cable was a critic of many UK arms exports prior to his appointment to government.

The conference will be hosted by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), already criticised for its continuing investment in cluster bombs. The majority of RBS is owned by the state.

The blurb for the seminar states, ""The Middle East is one of the regions with the greatest number of opportunities for UK defence and security companies".

It highlights the opportunities for arms sales to a number of oppressive regimes. It declares that, "Saudi Arabia stands out as the top destination for the UK defence industry. Also featured in this list .... are Oman, UAE and Bahrain, however the Middle East as a whole represents a priority market ... and is undoubtedly a very worthwhile region to target."

Armoured vehicles made in Newcastle by BAE Systems were used by the Saudi regime recently to help the Bahraini government to suppress peaceful pro-democracy protests in their country.

The seminar will be chaired by David Lockwood, Managing Director of Thales UK and Chair of the LCC's Defence and Security Committee.

UKTI DSO speakers are Steve Moore, Country Manager for Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and Simon Everest, Head of Security Directorate. RBS is represented by David Houghton, Director of Global Strategic Partnerships.

The seminar on the afternoon of Thursday 8 September is scheduled just five days before the opening of the London Arms Fair, known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi).

Held at the Excel Centre in London's Docklands, DSEi is one of the world's largest arms fairs and is highly controversial, especially at a time when Middle East and north African governments are using UK weaponry against democracy protestors.

The conference was condemned today (31 August) by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), who described it as a "seminar of shame".

CAAT's Kaye Stearman said, "For the arms industry and the government that supports it so enthusiastically, the Arab Spring was an inconvenience but now it is back to business as usual".

She added, "While the government professes to welcome new democratic movements, they continue to license weapons sales to the same governments that brutally suppress them".

[Ekk/1]

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