Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Robertson defends Indonesia arms sales
The British arms industry earns billions of pounds from exports
The UK Defence Secretary George Robertson has insisted there is no "direct connection" between the violence in East Timor and British arms sales to Indonesia.
Lord Robertson remarks came as he responded to questions about whether the British soldiers bound for Australia where they will link up with other elements of the UN peacekeeping force for East Timor would be likely to face fire from arms sold to Indonesia by British companies.
The defence secretary said there had been a "dramatic reduction" in the amount of arms being sold to the Indonesian government since Labour came to power.
He also said the UK did not sell arms that it thought would be used for internal repression and added that the armaments produced by the UK were not "openly on sale to anyone who wants it".
Turning to the role of the UN force for East Timor, Lord Robertson said it was more likely to be peacekeeping rather than peacemaking.
Campaigners against the arms trade are expected to be joined outside the exhibition hall in Chertsey by East Timorese exiles protesting at links between the UK arms industry and the Indonesian military.
The arms fair, Defence Systems and Equipment International, includes displays from more than 700 defence firms from the UK and abroad.
The Indonesian Government declined an invitation to attend the arms fair last week and the UK recently suspended weapons sales to Indonesia.
The move followed intense pressure on the UK Government to withdraw its invitation to the Indonesians because of the repression by militias in East Timor.
Defence Procurement Minister Lady Symons has previously insisted Indonesia should be allowed to attend the arms fair despite the violence in East Timor to look at "self-defence" equipment on sale.
Human rights organisations have consistently attacked the UK's sale of arms to Indonesia, claiming it breaches Labour's pledge to pursue an ethical foreign policy.
Britain has supplied more than 40 Hawk trainer jets to Indonesia since the early 1980s and Jakarta is still awaiting delivery of the majority of an order for 16 of the planes under a deal struck in 1996.
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