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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 05:53 GMT 06:53 UK
Belgium defends arms sales to Nepal
The Belgian Government has been defending the controversial sale of more than 5,000 machine guns to Nepal.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said the Nepalese authorities needed the weapons because of the threat posed by Maoist rebels who are trying to impose a communist dictatorship.

He said the production and sale of arms was not immoral, and the real question was to know who they are going to.

Politicians from other Belgian parties have demanded an urgent parliamentary debate on the deal, claiming that it could infringe guidelines against the sale of weapons to countries embroiled in civil wars.

The issue has split the governing coalition of Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt.

The Maoist rebels have been fighting since 1996 to overthrow the constitutional monarchy in Nepal.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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