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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
UK tightens Israel arms exports
An Israeli soldier and patrolling tank in Nablus on Monday
The actions of Israeli forces have sparked MPs' anger
The UK has tightened up on the military equipment it exports to Israel during the current Middle East conflict, according to a leaked memo.

The letter, from government export control director Jeremy Clayton, says Israel's military tactics have meant the UK will no longer export some of the kit approved in the past.

There is a well of anger within the Parliamentary Labour Party about exports to Israel

Alice Mahon
Labour MP

The move falls short of the blanket arms embargo demanded by some Labour MPs because of Israeli action against Palestinians.

The government is worried Israel is breaking its promise that equipment from the UK will not be used in the Occupied Territories, says the leaked memo.

Controversy was sparked last month when it emerged arms exports guidelines had been changed to allow military aircraft components to be sold for US F16 fighter planes destined for Israel.

Planes row

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw denied the rules had been changed to satisfy US business demands and said UK arms exports were better controlled than in almost any other country.

Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres is said to be pressing for exports

The shift will not affect parts sent to America or other third countries and later used in Israel, although officials say they do ensure the use of such equipment is monitored.

Mr Clayton's memo, written this month and published in Tuesday's Daily Mirror newspaper, suggests a tightening of the way the rules are enforced.

Leaked memo

The senior official's letter says the arms exports criteria already take account of the risks that exports might be used for internal repression or external aggression.

The memo is understood to have been sent to explain why officials had rejected an application from a British firm wanting to export ejector seats for F4 Phantom war planes used by the Israel air force.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw has defended sale of F16 parts to America

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said he could not comment on leaked letters.

There were always going to be a small share of export applications turned down, he said.

The Mirror reports that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is urging Tony Blair to overturn the new crackdown.

Brigadier General Yekutiel Mor, deputy director-general of foreign affairs at the Israeli defence ministry, told the newspaper: "The British are raising difficulties with export licences. We are trying to resolve them."

UK Government sources say there is not an embargo in place but explain the existing rules are being more strictly implemented because of heightened tensions.

Labour anger

That stance did not impress Labour MP Alice Mahon, who said she would not be satisfied with anything less than a full arms embargo.

Ms Mahon told BBC News Online: "The idea that we are exporting at all is just outrageous."

She said there was a "deep well of anger" among Labour MPs on the issue and even ministers had told her they were "absolutely horrified".

The Halifax MP predicted calls for an embargo would be made at both the TUC and Labour conferences.

"I am hoping it will bring a lot of pressure on the government," she added.

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See also:

06 Jun 02 | UK
09 Jul 02 | Politics
09 Jul 02 | Politics
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