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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Fears over 11 September arms show
By Chirag Trivedi
BBC News Online, London

Launched missle
Military hardware will be exhibited
Concerns have been raised about an arms exhibition in London that will take place on 11 September.

The Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) fair takes place between 9 - 12 September at the Dockland's Excel Centre in east London.

It first took place there two years ago, at the same time as the twin towers were attacked in New York.

There were protests then, and a large number of demonstrators are expected to show up at the exhibition this year as well.

Scotland Yard is drafting in 1,600 officers from across London to police the event but has denied suggestions that it could leave the rest of the city open to a terrorist attack.

A police spokeswoman said: "It will be an extensive operation with public order officers called in to deal with the situation.

Trouble-free event

"Given the nature of the event and the fact that several protest groups will be there, the operation will be similar to that of May Day.

"We wish to ensure that the event takes place trouble-free and that the protesters can protest in peace."

She added that it was not in the Met's power to postpone or cancel the exhibition, despite the sensitivity of the 11 September date.

"We always have concerns with shows of this nature, considering what will be on display," she said.

It's ridiculous to suggest that we would have gone ahead with this if there was a threat to London
DSEi spokesman
"We have no specific intelligence about a direct threat but the date will mean a general heightened sense of security."

Scotland Yard also stressed that extra policing of this exhibition, which will be the first since 2001, will not detract from the security measures for London on 11 September.

A number of organisations, including CND, Reclaim the Streets and Socialist Alliance, are involved in the protests, which will take place over the several days of the show.

The spokesman for the umbrella organisation, Disarm DSEi, said: "It is Europe's biggest arms fair and we think it really insensitive that they have scheduled this on 11 September."

Three anti-arms protestors were arrested after locking themselves into the headquarters of the exhibition organisers, last week.

Staff from Spearhead Exhibitions in New Malden were forced to break in through windows to ask the protestors to leave. Another was arrested as he tried to erect a banner on the outside of the building.

Invitation only

A spokesman for DSEi said they had been in contact with the police for over a year and would have moved the date of the event if the Met had asked them to do so.

She said: "It's ridiculous to suggest that we would have gone ahead with this if there was a threat to London."

She added that the exhibition will have some hardware, including ships, but will concentrate on ideas and development of defence systems.

Everyone attending will be by invitation of the Ministry of Defence or by application.

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