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Sunday, May 10, 1998 Published at 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK



UK

Arms-to-Africa affair dominates newspapers

Coverage of possible ministerial involvement in the shipment of arms to Sierra Leone has dominated the Sunday newspapers in Britain.

The UK Foreign Minster, Robin Cook, talking to BBC television's Breakfast with Frost programme, said none of the articles contained "a shred of evidence" to back up their claims.

The Sunday Times prints what is calls: "Photographic evidence ... which reveals for the first time proof of official British involvement in the West African coup that is shaking the Foreign Office."

It prints photographs showing what it says are Royal Navy engineers repairing a Russian-built military helicopter used by mercenaries during the fighting.

The Observer newspaper says a second British company was involved in the shipment of arms to Sierra Leone.

It says customs are also now investigating an aircraft operator based in London, which is reported to have flown "30 tons of Bulgarian arms to Sierra Leone via Nigeria last February potentially in breach of United Nations sanctions".

The Observer also reports that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has hired criminal lawyers to represent several high-ranking officials who Sandline claim knew and approved of the delivery.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Mr Cook is at war with senior civil servants over who is to blame for the crisis.

The paper says: "The row reflects the tension and suspicion which has characterised the relationship between Mr Cook and a minority of civil servants at the FCO - traditionally the most conservative of Whitehall departments."

The Mail on Sunday claims an exclusive story under the headline: "Ministers Did Know".

It says: "As both Downing Street and the Foreign Office stonewalled question, defence officials said their ministers had known all along that British mercenaries were involved in the planning and execution of the coup."
 





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