Friday, September 3, 1999 Published at 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Halt Indonesian arms exports - MPs
Indonesia broke promises not to fly Hawks over East Timor
Pressure is mounting on the UK Government to halt the export of military planes to Indonesia and to drop an invitation to Indonesia to attend Britain's largest arms fair.
The calls - from both Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs - follow the admission from Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that British-made jets were used by the Indonesians to intimidate the people of East Timor.
As a result the Labour chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Donald Anderson, said the UK should sell no more military jets to Indonesia for the time being.
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Menzies Campbell has criticised the government for maintaining Indonesia's invitation to the UK's largest arms fair, calling it "wholly inexplicable".
"I have seen opinion from leading counsel which was obtained by some of the NGOs [non-governmental organisations] in London which argues very strongly that the licences could have been revoked," he said.
Mr Anderson said the affair highlighted "the dangers of selling arms to dictatorial regimes like the previous regime in Indonesia".
But he said it was unclear if the Indonesians had broken the letter of the export licence terms.
He added that he thought arms sales should be suspended until it was certain that Indonesia would abide by the referendum result - which he expected would back independence.
Indonesia's ambassador to the UK claimed that when the Hawk jets made two flights over the East Timor capital Dili on 16 July, they were merely providing general security.
On Tuesday Defence Procurement Minister Baroness Symons confirmed the Indonesian visit to the UK largest arms fair would go ahead.
"Indonesia is a country in transition. It is an emerging democracy. And under the United Nations, like any other country, it has the right for self defence," Baroness Symons said.
Arms sales continue
Her comments are certain to enrage human rights groups who have long claimed that British-made defence hardware has been used for repression in East Timor since Indonesia invaded in 1975.
Jakarta is still awaiting delivery of the majority of an order for 16 of the planes under a deal struck in 1996.
Baroness Symons defended the government's record on arms sales and added that the licence under which the Hawks were sold was granted by the previous Tory government.
"We don't sell arms that can be used for internal repression or external aggression and our code makes that very clear," she said.
Shadow Foreign Secretary John Maples has written to the Indonesian ambassador, Nana Sutresla, to express his party's "disappointment" at the breach of the export licence conditions.
The Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition opens at Chertsey, Surrey, and London's Docklands on September 14. More than 600 companies from 50 countries will be exhibiting.
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