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banner Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Stricter controls on UK arms dealers
Chinook helicopter avoiding attack
British dealers peddle arms in war zones like Sierra Leone
Stricter controls are to be placed on the British arms trade.


In this country you need a licence to go fishing, to marry, to drive a car, you even need a licence to run a raffle

But you don't need a licence to broker and traffic in arms


Stephen Byers
Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers has announced that the government is to introduce a licensing system for companies that deal in weapons and munitions.

Speaking at the Labour conference in Brighton, Mr Byers said: "The arms industry in the UK employs many thousands of workers, it's an important part of our manufacturing base.

"But there is a dark and unacceptable side to the arms trade. This is the irresponsible, immoral trafficking and brokering of arms to conflict zones and areas of instability.

"In this country you need a licence to go fishing, to marry, to drive a car, you even need a licence to run a raffle. But you don't need a licence to broker and traffic in arms."

He said the government would introduce a system of licensing for the arms trade.

'Untold suffering'

Earlier in the week, Glenys Kinnock, Welsh MEP and wife of the party's former leader, told the conference: "The fact is that dealers are buying surplus Cold War weapons in eastern Europe and flying them into African war zones. They are causing untold suffering and misery.

"In Sierra Leone there is evidence of the involvement of British arms dealers in the transfer, in March 1999, of millions of pounds worth of arms from Ukraine to the rebels in Sierra Leone.

The arms, she said, included grenade launchers and had been shipped by a Luton-based company, in a deal brokered by a Gibraltar-based company.

Mrs Kinnock also alleged that a British-based company had brokered the supply of four helicopter gunships to Uganda from Belarus and two of them had ended up in Rwanda.

"These weapons are moving around the world without ever having to touch British soil," she said.

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See also:

30 May 00 | Talking Point
Should we be arming Sierra Leone?
25 Jul 00 | Africa
Tackling conflict in Africa
13 Mar 00 | Africa
East Africa targets arms trade
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