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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 15:37 GMT
Tanzania 'needs costly radar system'
Kilimanjaro International Airport, Tanzania
Tanzania's tourist industry is expected to benefit
Tanzania has defended its decision to buy a sophisticated 28m air traffic control system at the centre of a row over UK aid policy.

It is wrong to say it is basically a military system because it's not

Colonel Gaby Komba, Tanzanian military attache
Aid agencies have accused the UK of wavering on its commitment to debt relief in Africa after it granted an export licence for the BAE Watchman system.

The World Bank claims the system is too expensive and the cash would be better spent on education and health.

But Tanzania has hit back by claiming it needs the state-of-the-art radar system to "maintain the integrity of its airspace".

It denies the equipment will be used solely for military purposes.

'Cheaper system'

Colonel Gaby Komba, military attache to the Tanzanian embassy in London, said he was surprised that objections had been raised at this stage, as the project has been four years in the planning.

He said the system would be used for civilian air traffic control.

"It is wrong to say it is basically a military system because it's not.

"It is going to be used for both (military and civilian) purposes," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

Colonel Komba added: "You can get a cheaper system, but for the purposes of what we want this would have been the best."

'Military element'

He admitted there was a "military element" to the equipment but the system as a whole would be used to "maintain the integrity" of Tanzania's airspace.

It really is a large amount of money and it is competing with priority programmes such as education and health

World Bank

He did not want to comment on where the cash to pay for the system was coming from but, he added, as far as Tanzania was concerned the deal had been completed.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt refused to comment on the deal or reports that the cabinet was split on the issue.

A report in Friday's Guardian newspaper claimed the World Bank could still block the deal - even though BAE Systems is shortly expected to begin exporting parts of the system to Tanzania.

A source close to the World Bank told BBC News Online that it would continue to monitor the deal closely but it is not in a position to halt it.

Saving jobs

A World Bank spokesman told the BBC: "We are concerned that such a large expenditure is going to purposes who's justification is not clear to us.

Population : 32.9 million
Surface area (1997): 945.1 thousand sq. km
Population per sq. km (1997): 35.4
Population growth : 2.4 %
Life expectancy (1998): 47 years
GNP per capita : $240
GDP : $8.8bn

"To put it in context, $40m (28m) is about one third of basic national education expenditure in Tanzania.

"So it really is a large amount of money and it is competing with priority programmes such as education and health."

The Guardian says International Development Secretary Clare Short and Chancellor Gordon Brown, are still hoping to have the deal blocked.

The Chancellor has been instrumental in securing debt relief for Tanzania and has spoken out on the danger of diverting funds from health and education into defence projects.

The Tanzanian Air Defence Command is reported to have only 19 combat aircraft in various states of repair and four unarmed helicopters.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"No minister has defended this decision in public"
Christian Aid's Roger Riddell
"It's a tragedy for the people of Tanzania"
Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner
"BAE have just been granted a licence"
See also:

11 Sep 01 | Business
World Bank pushes anti-poverty drive
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