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Monday, 24 December, 2001, 04:50 GMT
Short attacks Tanzania decision
Maasai tribesmen in Ngoro-Ngoro, Tanzania
Tanzania is one of the world's poorest countries
Clare Short has publicly criticised the government over its decision to give Tanzania the go-ahead to buy a controversial 28 million air traffic control system from a British manufacturer.

Speaking about losing last week's cabinet battle to block the deal, the Minister for International Development told the BBC the government had a moral duty to put concern for the world's poor above commercial interests.

She said the purchase of the system was a waste of money for a poor and indebted country, although the Tanzanian President, Benjamin Mkapa, has said his country needs it to ensure air safety.

Minister for International Development Clare Short
Clare Short: Money could be better spent
She warned that the sale by British Aerospace could still be blocked by the World Bank, which claims the system is too expensive and the cash would be better spent on education and health.

The minister stressed the government's commitment to social justice, but said if it believed in it at home, it had to believe in it internationally.

An export licence to allow BAE Systems to sell the system to the Tanzanian Government was granted on Thursday after a heated cabinet meeting, which reportedly left ministers split on the issue.

The government was immediately condemned by Oxfam and backbench MPs, while defence experts questioned the cost of the system when a 7 million version would have been adequate.

Secure jobs

The deal is opposed by a number of ministers, including Chancellor Gordon Brown, and several charities.

They claim the system will add to Tanzania's debt burden just as Western nations - led by the UK - are attempting to relieve it. Britain has written off 100m of the country's debts.

Those in favour, including Tony Blair and Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, say it will secure 250 of the 900 BAE Systems jobs in the Isle of Wright.

Tanzania has defended its decision to buy the system 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.

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See also:

11 Sep 01 | Business
World Bank pushes anti-poverty drive
21 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Tanzania 'needs costly radar system'
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