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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Airport curb on US 'bomb flights'
Plane at Prestwick
Flights carrying "hazardous" material have refuelled at Prestwick
US military flights carrying bombs to Israel will no longer use any civilian airports in the UK, the BBC has learnt.

The decision follows criticism of the use of Prestwick Airport, near Glasgow, to refuel flights suspected of carrying bombs to Israel.

It has emerged that in future only military airfields will be used.

The decision was reached after protests at the airport and discussions between various government departments, led by the Foreign Office.

US flights to Israel used RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk rather than Prestwick airport last weekend, prompting protests from about 30 peace campaigners at the military base.

BBC2's Newsnight has revealed that a total six aircraft carrying military supplies for Israel passed through UK airports over the weekend, one of them using RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

The programme said Defence Secretary Des Browne offered the use of the bases after Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander protested to Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett about Prestwick being used.

BBC News understands that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett last week pressed for all US flights through the UK to be suspended while hostilities in Lebanon continued.

But her concerns were rejected by Downing Street.

'Not happy'

The latest move means the planes will at least not pass through civilian airports any longer.

Mrs Beckett last week opened up a rare public rift with the Americans when she said she was "not happy" because it appeared the US planes at Prestwick had not followed correct procedures for transporting hazardous materials.

She raised the issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and threatened to make a formal protest if the reports proved to be true.

Her worries were seized on by government critics as evidence that the US was taking British support for granted.

But the White House dismissed Mrs Beckett's protest, saying the Department of Defense believed the "paperwork" had been in order.

Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar said the UK had showed itself to be "partisan" in allowing its airports to be used by the US planes.

"In my view, we are partisan in this conflict when we are allowing British airports to be used for logistics for Israel and we are not honest brokers any more and our policy towards Lebanon is biased and I think we have severely damaged our reputation in the international community," he said.




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