Worldwide spending on arms increases

London, October 3:

Worldwide spending on weapons is expected to reach record levels this year at a time when the arms industry is increasingly able to avoid export controls, human rights and aid agencies say in a report published yesterday.

By the end of the year, military spending is estimated to reach $1,058 billion, about 15 times the amount spent on international aid, say Amnesty, Oxfam, and the International Action Network on Small Arms (Iansa). The figure is higher than the cold war record reached in 1987-88 of $1,034 billion in today’s prices, they claim, adding that last year the US, Russia, Britain, France and Germany accounted for an estimated 82 per cent of all arms transfers.

Other countries are emerging as important arms exporters. Brazil, India, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea all have arms companies in the world’s top 100, Amnesty says. In their report, Arms without Borders, the agencies claim US, EU, and Canadian companies can get round arms regulations by selling weapon components and subcontracting arms manufacturing to companies overseas. Weapons, including attack helicopters and combat trucks, are being assembled from foreign components and manufactured under licence in countries including China, Egypt, India, Israel and Turkey.

The report shows how these or similar weapons have ended up in Colombia, Sudan and Uzbekistan where they are reported to have been used against civilians. The report states that the EU has an arms embargo against China, and the US and Canada have ban-ned the sale of armed helicopters to Beijing. Yet China’s new Z-10 attack helicopter would not fly without weapons parts and technology from Anglo-Italian company (Augusta Westland, the Canadian firm Pratt & Whitney Canada) a US company (Lord Corporation) and a Franco-German company (Eurocopter), it says.

The report points out that China has previously sold attack helicopters to a number of countries including Sudan, which is under a full EU arms embargo. The Apa-che helicopter, used by Israel in the Lebanon, is made from 6,000 parts manufactured worldwide, including the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland. Under the EU’s code of conduct, those countries should refuse to export attack helicopters directly to Israel, the agencies report.

Last year, Uzbek security forces fired on demonstrators, killing hundreds. The Uzbek military used military Land Rovers. Around 70 per cent of their parts were British. They were sent ‘flat pack’ to Turkey, where they were made into military vehicles. The vehicles were then supplied to the Uzbek government.

There is no suggestion the companies are breaking the law but the report says the government has no control over the deal because the vehicles were not converted into military vehicles in Britain. The UN has just opened its annual session on arms control.

The general assembly is to vote on a British-backed proposal for an arms trade treaty. Human rights groups say the treaty should impose export controls on components of weapons systems as well as complete weapons. Controls should also cover foreign licensing agreements, they say.

Global arms trade treaty needed

LONDON: An international arms trade treaty would be able to save ‘hundreds of thousands’ of lives around the world, 14 religious leaders have said in a letter published in The Times. “The world is awash with weapons,” the letter states. “And all too often, weapons fall into the wrong hands and are used against innocent people. Yet, despite the mounting death toll, there is still no comprehensive treaty governing sales of conventional weapons from handguns to attack helicopters.” — AFP