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Buy our arms, but please don't fight

Issue No. 1707

Buy our arms, but please don't fight

"WE CAN'T possibly write off the debt of Third World countries-they'll only spend the money on arms." That was a key justification offered by Western leaders for leaving the poorest countries mired in poverty at last weekend's Okinawa summit. The gross hypocrisy behind this statement was exposed at the start of this week when four House of Commons select committees slammed New Labour for granting licences for arm sales to Zimbabwe.

The select committees were so alarmed by the government's eagerness to peddle weapons to every corrupt regime that they called for all future arms export licences to be scrutinised by parliament.

New Labour granted permission for the sale of vital Hawk jet parts to Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe in February. The sales were given the go-ahead by Tony Blair personally.

New Labour knew that Mugabe was using Hawk jets in sub-Saharan Africa's worst, most destabilising war-in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This conflict, dubbed "Africa's First World War" by the US State Department, has seen tens of thousands killed for control over territory that holds precious minerals.

So this government sells arms which are used to wage bloody wars and put down internal dissent. Then ministers like international development secretary Clare Short use the destruction her government has fuelled as a reason to keep the world's poor starving.

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Sat 29 Jul 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1707
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