Britain tightens arms trade

THE British government promised overnight to tighten controls on the trade of portable anti-aircraft missiles and some cluster bombs. British arms dealers operating anywhere in the world will soon be subject to strict controls on shoulder-launched missiles and "cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians", the government said.


Campaigners against the trade in small arms argue weapons often fall into the hands of insurgents and cause devastation to civilian populations.

The government also plans to add "sting sticks" - metal batons with spikes and barbs - to its list of torture equipment that is subject to strict controls, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks told parliament.

Landmine Action, which campaigns against landmines and other explosive remnants of war, said the move was "a step in the right direction" but that it was waiting for the government to commit to ban all cluster munitions.

"The problem is that the cluster munitions that cause 'unacceptable harm' have not yet been defined," said Simon Conway, Landmine Action's director.

Norway has been leading an international effort known as the "Oslo Process" to shape a treaty banning cluster munitions by a meeting in Dublin in May.
That process is seeking to define "unacceptable harm", Mr Conway said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said some 400 million people in countries and regions like Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Russia's Chechnya effectively live in minefields, under daily threat of maiming from cluster bombs.

Mr Wicks said the addition of sting sticks to the UK list of torture equipment would be implemented swiftly.

The government would then focus on the more complex task of extending controls to portable anti-aircraft missiles and other small arms.

Von:, 07.02.2008

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