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Saturday, September 18, 1999 Published at 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK


Police probe landmines sale claim

The penalty for selling landmines is up to 14 years in jail

Police are investigating allegations that banned anti-personnel mines were sold at a government-sponsored arms fair this week.

The move follows a Channel 4 News report that Romania's state-owned company, Romteknika, was offering the banned mines for sale during the Defence Systems Equipment International exhibition in Chertsey.

Armed Forces Minister, John Spellar: "We've expressed our very considerable concern"
Anti-personnel mines were outlawed last year under the Landmines Act, following a campaign highlighted by the late Diana, Princess of Wales. It bans possession or sale of the mines in the UK.

With the government under increasing pressure to respond to the allegations, Defence minister John Spellar told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was "concerned" at the reports.

[ image: Thousands of children worldwide have lost limbs to landmines]
Thousands of children worldwide have lost limbs to landmines
"As I understand it all the exhibitors were made very clear as to what was allowed and what was not allowed," he said.

"As I understand it we have now referred this matter to the police to investigate whether an offence has taken place and obviously at the moment their investigations are continuing.

"But we've expressed our very considerable concern at that matter."

He said checks had been made before the exhibition, run by a private company with "limited" government involvement.

Shadow Defence Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said on Friday he was "appalled" to hear mines were on sale at the fair.

And Richard Lloyd, spokesman for the UK Working Party on Landmines, said: "We've seen the materials they were handing out at the arms fair and the specification of two weapons they have been promoting are most certainly anti-personnel mines."

He said they did not have the mines on display but pointed out there were stiff penalties - up to 14 years in jail - for encouraging people to buy anti-personnel mines.

Mr Lloyd has called for an independent inquiry into the allegations.

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