Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 18:43 UK

Firms 'fly Africa aid and arms'

The report said air transport played a key role in destabilising parts of Africa

Some air transport firms used to fly aid to African conflict zones are also involved in arms shipments and drug trafficking, according to a study.

The Swedish-based research found 90% of air carriers it identified involved in arms-trafficking were also used by aid groups and peacekeepers.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said the worst case was Sudan.

All air firms there listed for illicit arms transfers were also used for aid.

Carriers identified by Sipri had also been used by UN agencies, the EU, Nato member states and non-governmental organisations.

The report singled out a number of African carriers as being named in arms trafficking reports.

Sipri said air transportation had played a key role in destabilising parts of Africa through the transfer of small arms and had helped smuggle drugs.

Some of the relief groups mentioned in the report, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said it was difficult to know what goods have previously been transported in planes.

Gerald Massis, director-general for logistics at MSF, told AP news agency: "It's like you hire a taxi. After your trip you don't know what they do afterwards."

Sipri's report called for agencies to deny contracts to air transport firms engaged in arms flights.

But it also admitted that sometimes the only companies willing to fly aid to conflict zones were the same ones that also transported arms shipments.

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